An attempt by British scientists to research whether the psychedelic element of magic mushrooms can control severe depression has been stymied by bureaucracy.
Despite having received over half a million pounds sterling—$842,000—the three-year study has come to a grinding halt because the team has to spend a six-figure sum on a synthetic version of the drug rather than the real thing.
The key to the study is the chemical psilocybin, which is thought to switch off the anterior cingulate cortex, the part of the brain which can trigger depression. Psilocybin has been proven in initial tests to have made volunteers—none of whom suffered from depression—feel happier.
Professor David Nutt, a former drugs adviser to the U.K. government—he famously said that ecstasy was less dangerous than riding a horse and was unseated from his post as chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs—says that, without the illicit brown paper bag, so to speak, the research is at an end.
Depression is currently the greatest contributing factor in disability rates in Europe.
"We only need a relatively small amount of the drug, an order worth only a few hundred pounds," Nutt said yesterday. "If we have to pay $100,000, we simply cannot afford to carry out the rest of the study. We have not given up, but it is proving very difficult."
[Image by Flickr user wiremoons]