In the late 1950s, Albert Hofmann, the Swiss chemist who “discovered” LSD mostly by accident, started experimenting with something even more powerful: magic mushrooms. Indigenous people in Mexico had been observed using mushrooms in religious rituals by western visitors several years earlier. One of the interlopers sent a sample to Hofmann, who became the first western scientist to identify, isolate, and artificially synthesize the active ingredients, compounds called psilocybin and psilocin. Recognizing the medical value of the mushrooms, Hofmann’s employer, the pharmaceutical giant Sandoz, soon packaged them into a pill and started marketing a drug called Indocybin. Therapists and researchers were thrilled. Here was a safe pharmaceutical drug, with immense potential to treat a wide range of mental-health pathologies, including depression and addiction! But then the drug war happened. Psilocybin was classified as a Schedule I drug in 1970. Research, as well as treatment, halted.
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