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5 breakthroughs in the psychedelic renaissance

The reputation of psychedelics is shifting from drugs of abuse to medicine.

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Since 1970 psychedelics — drugs like psilocybin, MDMA, LSD, and DMT — have been categorized as Schedule I drugs in the United States. By definition, that means they have no accepted medical use.

Before then, some researchers — like psychologist Timothy Leary — advocated for psychedelics. Then their studies came to a grinding halt.

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For decades, that meant research on psychedelics was stagnated.

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In recent years, however, the amount of papers published on psychedelics has skyrocketed.

Psychedelics are "re-entering science and society," as a July 2020 perspective article in Frontiers in Psychology puts it.

Click to see the number of papers on LSD, psilocybin, hallucinogens and psychedelics by decade.

The number of papers published between 1990 and 2020, according to a study in "Frontiers in Psychology."

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In the last two years, attitudes towards psychedelics have continued to shift. As recently as November, some Americans have indicated they're ready for a rethink.

Here are five key moments heralding that change. >>

2018: "Breakthrough Therapy" status is achieved

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In October 2018, the Food and Drug Administration granted COMPASS Pathways, a London-based life sciences company, a "breakthrough therapy" designation for its research on psilocybin.

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The "breakthrough therapy" designation means the FDA aims to expedite the approval of drugs that treat a serious condition and show promise early on.

The COMPASS Pathways group gained recognition following a trial on psilocybin and treatment-resistant depression.

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Such trials are still continuing.

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May 2019: Denver becomes the first city to decriminalize magic mushrooms

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Voting on a city ordinance during a 2019 election, Denver narrowly voted to decriminalize psilocybin. The decision came down to less than 2,000 votes.

The ordinance aimed to "deprioritize" criminal penalties for possessing personal amounts of psilocybin.

The drug remained illegal in Colorado at large.

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March 2020: A psychedelics company begins public trading for the first time

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Mind Medicine Inc., a company investing in research into LSD and Ibogaine (a psychedelic substance found in plants) began trading on the NEO exchange, a "progressive" stock exchange.

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"MindMed" has since applied to trade on the NASDAQ. However, Compass Pathways, the company granted breakthrough status by the FDA in 2018, got there first.

In September 2020, Compass Pathways became the first psychedelics company to trade on the NASDAQ – a major U.S. stock exchange.

August 2020: Cancer patients in Canada win the right to try psilocybin therapy

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In April 2020, four patients in Canada began petitioning the federal government to make an exception to the Canadian Controlled Substances Act, and allow the use of psilocybin during palliative care.

In August, they won approval, paving the way for more patients to be granted "the right to try."

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"It was life-changing, and one of the most beautiful experiences of my life."

- Estalyn Walcoff, a patient with an incurable form of lymphoma who participated in 2016 psilocybin trial.

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November 2020: Oregon becomes the first state to legalize psilocybin-based mental health treatment

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During the 2020 election, Oregon passed a ballot measure that legalized the use of psilocybin in mental health treatment settings for those over 21.

Oregon became the first state to do so.

The measure passed with 56 percent of the vote.

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What's next?

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More states are considering approaches like Oregon's. California Senator Scott Wiener plans to introduce a bill to decriminalize psilocybin in that state.

In April 2021, a psychedelics hotline will also go live.

Meanwhile, research on psychedelics continues to accumulate...

Catch up on it here.

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