• November 27, 2020

Forget Big Brother, Hopkins Wants to Track Your ‘Shroom’ Use

 Forget Big Brother, Hopkins Wants to Track Your ‘Shroom’ Use

Original art by Lizzy Oakley Photography

Studies have shown psilocybin has the potential to be a clinical treatment for depression and other behavioral health conditions, but researchers have struggled to understand how it works outside of a laboratory. That’s why Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research launched a study this fall to study ‘shrooms’ in the real world, i.e. in living, breathing humans who use them or who plan to. 

Researchers conducting the study, which has been open since August, want to set up a global registry for ‘magic mushroom’ consumption. And the interest and push for psilocybin has gone past research studies and into the political sphere. Washington, D.C. and Oregon joined the ranks of Denver, Oakland and Ann Arbor, Mich. on Election Day when local voters approved ballot measures essentially decriminalizing — technically de-prioritizing in some locations — the natural, if once highly stigmatized, substance.  

The researchers are surveying users across the world — asking them questions before, during, and after their psilocybin ‘trips’ or supervised therapy sessions, which are highly recommended by experts. Using these answers, researchers hope to create the largest registry about psilocybin usage and the resulting experiences.

For hundreds of years, people have already been using psilocybin and other psychedelic drugs in a “widespread natural history experiment,” according to Heather Jackson, Denver-based Unlimited Sciences’ board president. She also said research on these types of drugs suggests they can create lasting, positive changes in people’s attitudes, moods, and behavior for years to come.

“By expanding this study to include far more examples of real-life usage and outcomes, we can continue to learn more and refine our research,” Jackson said.

The study itself is simple — participants fill out up to five surveys over the course of two weeks before and up to three months after their planned ‘trips,’ according to the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research’s recruitment site. Participants can also opt out or reschedule surveys at any time.

Researchers want to collect data from over 1,000 adult participants who are already using or planning to use psilocybin, according to Unlimited Sciences. From there, they’ll investigate differing variables among participants, such as demographics, lifestyle, mindset, and personality traits.

Additionally, the researchers are looking into the actual characteristics of participants’ respective experiences, such as dosage, ingestion method, intention, guidance, and setting — all of which can impact psilocybin’s short and long-term effects.

While it’s still not widely known, an array of studies already show psilocybin’s effectiveness in treating depression, anxiety, smoking cessation, and cancer-related stress

However, since this study isn’t confined to a lab, there’s a chance to learn new details and potential health benefits of psilocybin. 

“Because our research is ‘real world,’ allowing participants to enroll for any reason and participate in any setting, we will learn unprecedented new details about how individuals are choosing to use [psilocybin],” Del Jolly, the co-founder and director of Unlimited Sciences, said. “We hope to grow our understanding with a large sample set.”

The News Station’s managing editor, Matt Laslo, is an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University’s masters in Government and Public Policy Program in Washington, D.C. He has no connection to their Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, but he wants one. He can be reached at mlaslo [@] thenewsstation [dot] com 

Gabrielle Lewis

Gabrielle Lewis

Gabrielle Lewis is a journalist at the University of Maryland College Park. She has written and edited for the school's flagship newspaper, The Diamondback, as well as other campus publications. You can find her on Twitter @gabrielleslewis.

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