May 19, 2023 - Politics

State to fund clinical trials on "whole mushroom" psilocybin research

A plastic tub filled with long stemmed mushrooms.

Mazatec psilocybin mushrooms. Photo: Joe Amon/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Arizona will soon award $5 million in grants for researchers to conduct clinical studies on hallucinogenic psilocybin mushrooms.

Driving the news: The recently approved budget for fiscal year 2024 includes a competitive grant program overseen by the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS).

  • Grant recipients will conduct clinical trials to study the effects of "whole mushroom psilocybin" on post-traumatic stress disorder, long COVID symptoms, depression, anxiety, chronic pain and other maladies.
  • Trials must prioritize veterans, first responders, frontline health care workers and people from underserved communities.

Why it matters: An emerging body of research indicates that psilocybin is an effective treatment for a variety of medical problems.

  • While other research has largely focused on a synthetic psilocybin molecule, Arizona will be the first to conduct research on the whole mushroom, said Sue Sisley, a researcher who studies the drug's effects and is federally licensed to cultivate whole mushrooms.
  • She called it ​​"the most important psilocybin research in the world."

What they're saying: "I do wonder if there are other components of the mushroom that contribute to the efficacy of the treatment," says Paul Thambi of Sunstone Therapies in Rockville, Maryland, which conducts research and clinical trials using psychedelics.

  • He tells Axios Phoenix the uniqueness of Arizona's new grant program is generating buzz in the medical community, saying, "It's definitely being talked about."

Zoom in: Sisley estimates that $5 million will be enough to provide two grants for phase I trials, which she describes as early exploratory research that focuses primarily on how safe a substance is for patients to use at different doses and how much gets absorbed into the bloodstream and urine.

  • That would generally involve about 20 subjects.
  • She doesn't believe there's enough money for anyone to conduct phase II trials to measure the drug's effectiveness on around 100 subjects.
  • Sisley said her organization, the Scottsdale Research Institute, will apply for one of the grants.

What's next: It's unclear when ADHS will begin accepting applications or how large the grants will be, but the budget requires that grants be awarded by Feb. 1 each year.

  • The department must announce the start of the application period at least 30 days in advance, and applicants must have at least 30 days to submit.

Catch up quick: A state House committee approved a bipartisan bill this session that would have provided $30 million for psilocybin research, but it died after failing to get a hearing in a second committee.


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