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Synthetic vs. Organic Psychedelics: Synthesizing Plant Medicine

Synthetic vs. Organic Psychedelics: Synthesizing Plant Medicine
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There is rising interest in psychedelics. As substances like psilocybin mushrooms make their way to the mainstream, some drug manufacturers are researching modes of creating synthetic versions of popular psychedelics. 

Synthetic vs. Organic: What’s the Difference? 

Synthetic drugs are manufactured/created in a lab. They’re made to precision, since they are intended to produce the same results each time the user takes them. By controlling the dose and thereby the potency of a synthetic drug, manufacturers are also more reliably able to “guarantee” the safety of the user. 

While there are some examples of popular synthetic hallucinogens such as DMT, recently psychedelics advocates have focused primarily on organic or natural substances. Magic mushrooms and peyote are two popular examples of organic psychedelics which occur naturally in a number of environments. Because organic psychedelics grow naturally and aren’t human-made, they can create a range of experiences for the user. In addition, dosing is largely based on personal experience, and best practices on collective knowledge. 

Psychedelics to Treat Depressive Behaviors

Setting aside the recreational uses of psychedelics, pharmaceutical manufacturers and proponents of psychedelic use agree that the potential for psychedelics to alleviate the symptoms of depression should be closely examined. Mental health practitioners that offer psychedelic therapies are already using the synthetic substance ketamine. Ketamine treatment has shown promise in the management of trauma and depression. 

In a study published this year in ACS Chemical Neuroscience, researchers found that ketamine reduced depressive behaviors in rats for around a week. The effects of psilocybin were even more evident, with many rats exhibiting reduced depressive behaviors for up to five weeks. Thus, these findings only corroborate what advocates already know: organic psychedelics can be powerful tools for improving mental health and well-being. 

What’s the Holdup? 

As of now, the medical field predicates its approved model on precision and efficacy. There has not been enough research towards synthesizing psychedelics like psilocybin. For many entities in the world of pharmaceuticals, the interest is there. However, the potential legal implications make it difficult to take the leap. 

There are advocates of organic psychedelics who have expressed concern regarding the efficacy of synthetic alternatives. Some worry that turning to a synthetic model will impact the effects of substances like psilocybin. Others worry that the commercialization of natural psychedelics will destroy the traditions and communities closely tied to them.

That said, as with marijuana, consumers will largely decide which rules supreme: synthetic or organic? They have widely accepted new forms of THC and CBD products, readily consuming both synthetic products and the natural bud. Accordingly, could producers mirror this same model in their work with psychedelics? Could a pill replicate the experience of microdosing with magic mushrooms? Or is there just something about the plant itself that can’t quite be pinned down? 

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