Public interest in psychedelic research is soaring. Psilocybin might help folks fight several mental health issues, soothing their symptoms and improving their lives.

How do researchers reach these conclusions, and what challenges arise along the way?

Ethics is a big one, and it takes several forms. From patient safety to the restrictive legal landscape, scientists must overcome hurdles to conduct safe and moral shroom studies.

Join us to learn about the ethics of psychedelics in research. We discuss common barriers to studying magic mushrooms and ways one might navigate them.

The Importance of Ethical Research

Why is ethics important in a lab? Because it ensures experiments are relevant, benevolent, and beneficial to society.

Research ethics means applying fundamental moral principles to studies, including their design, implementation, and aim. These principles include:

  • Respect for people’s autonomy and getting informed consent
  • Wanting to achieve something worthwhile for society
  • Harm reduction and minimizing the risks in the study
  • Confidentiality and data protection if working with human participants
  • Maintaining research integrity to reach applicable conclusions

These principles are universal, but they take different forms in various disciplines. Let’s see how they apply to psychedelic research

Why Magic Mushroom Research Matters

Most people associate magic mushrooms with trippiness and 1960s hippies. Recreational value is only the tip of the iceberg, though. 
Over the past two decades, studies have shown that psilocybin might help treat mental health disorders like anxiety, depression, and OCD. It’s also shown to be relatively safe if taken in controlled conditions.
Wanting to help people struggling with mental health issues is a valuable pursuit. As a result, psychedelic research satisfies the first and foremost ethical requirement: a worthwhile cause.
Not everything’s that straightforward, though.

When Law and Ethics Collide

The United Nations banned psilocybin in 1971, and over 180 countries supported this treaty. The US officially outlawed shrooms in 1968, and prohibition escalated in 1971. The situation hasn’t changed much since.

Advocacy groups are trying to reverse these decisions worldwide. Until they do, though, psychedelic research remains significantly restricted.
Research institutes often face regulatory hassles. Bureaucracy wastes time and money, making it harder to acquire data that could help many people.
Psilocybin is likely to remain unavailable to many patients even if studies reveal its benefits. Governments are stalling the research efforts that could improve the lives of many.

Ethical Complexities of Medical Psychedelics

Looking at the ethical requirements above, it becomes evident psychedelic research can’t tick all the boxes. How can a subject provide informed consent if shroom effects remain a mystery? How can a scientist guarantee protection from negative experiences?

Let’s explore.

Psilocybin as Treatment

According to research, psychedelics are a different mental health treatment than medication. Instead of dampening symptoms, they help people challenge their previous beliefs. Subjects then undergo therapy to harness their new perspective.

How do scientists assert control over something as unpredictable as a hallucinogenic experience?

Much psychedelic therapy isn’t the trip itself: it’s the before and after. Therapists work with patients to prepare for a session and integrate their insights. The process is relatively long term and requires expert knowledge.

What about the risk of “bad trips” with shrooms? These usually happen in unregulated conditions, like uncomfortable and anxiety-inducing spaces. They’re unlikely and benign in clinical settings, but researchers should prepare their participants to avoid them.

Psilocybin as Treatment

Clinical Studies and Patient Safety

When giving subjects mind-altering substances, we can’t always know how they’ll react. So, safety is a significant aspect of the ethics of psychedelics.

Experiments generally require the subject to give informed consent, but that’s problematic with shrooms. Psychonauts describe the trip as mystical and impossible to verbalize. So, scientists can’t easily prepare their participants for the session.

To minimize this hurdle, the researcher may discuss existing data in as much detail as possible and disclose the knowledge gaps. They might also have their subjects talk to people who used shrooms before. The solution isn’t ideal, but it beats false promises and overgeneralizations.

Another way to maintain ethical psychedelic research is through practical safety. For instance, patients agree not to operate machinery, do intense exercise, or consume alcohol or drugs for specific hours.

Many clinical trials use in-patient facilities. This approach lets scientists monitor vitals and patient behavior, keeping the experiments controlled.

The final aspect is the abuse potential. Even though psilocybin doesn’t appear addictive, the body develops a tolerance with repeated use. The subjects should receive the minimum dose to reduce this risk.

Cultivating Shrooms for Research

Using pure shrooms, knowing their potency, and controlling the dose are vital to ethical studies. So, another issue with psychedelic research is acquiring psychedelics in the first place.

In the US, institutes acquire psilocybin from licensed pharmacists. These manufacturers follow FDA-approved production processes to make pure, concentrated psychedelics for scientific use. Unfortunately, these are exorbitantly priced and may take a year to synthesize.

The current solution works for small-scale studies, but the interest in shrooms is growing. By not licensing more manufacturers, the government prevents ethical breakthroughs.

Magic Mushroom

Ethics of Psychedelics: The Bottom Line

Safety, predictability, and control are the main concerns in the ethics of psychedelic research. It’s tough to keep things in check with such a novel substance, but the institutes are doing excellent work. Every next experiment relies on the previous, adding clarity to the field.

The future is bright for magic mushroom studies. The scientists are doing their part: now’s the time for the government to step up.

Besides studying shrooms’ effects on the brain, researchers might investigate spores under a microscope. Doing so supports the broader efforts of biologists to understand the fifth kingdom, and newbies are welcome to join. Why not give it a go?

Order lab-grade spore syringes today and take up two fascinating and worthwhile hobbies: microscopy and taxonomy. 

 

All of the content and images on our site are for informational reference only. The cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms is federally illegal in the United States. We do not promote the cultivation of psilocybin “magic” mushrooms under any circumstances. Do not contact us asking for advice related to this subject. Any products found on this site are for microscopy and taxonomy purposes only. None of the psilocybin mushroom spores we offer are for consumption or cultivation. We do not sell any products containing psilocybin.