Psychoactive mushrooms have been used for thousands of years and have a long history of both medicinal and ceremonial use among indigenous peoples in many parts of the world, including Europe and the Americas.

They were re-popularized in 1957, when a photo essay featuring an American banker and mushroom enthusiast R. Gordon Wasson was published in LIFE Magazine. Four years earlier, Wasson had stumbled across an indigenous tribe using psychoactive mushrooms in Mexico while on vacation and brought back a sample that he then sent to the Swiss chemist known for discovering LSD, Albert Hofmann. Hofmann isolated psilocybin and developed a synthesis for the drug in his lab at Sandoz Pharmaceuticals, which then started producing 2 mg pills to be distributed for research purposes.

For the next two decades thousands of doses of psilocybin were administered in clinical experiments. Psychiatrists, scientists and mental health professionals considered psychedelics like psilocybin to be promising treatments as an aid to therapy for a broad range of psychiatric diagnoses, including alcoholism, schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression. Many more people were also introduced to psilocybin mushrooms and other psychedelics as part of various religious or spiritual practices, for mental and emotional exploration, or to enhance wellness and creativity.

Despite this long history and ongoing research into its therapeutic and medical benefits, psilocybin and psilocin have been listed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act since 1970. This is the most heavily criminalized category for drugs considered to have a “high potential for abuse” and no currently accepted medical use – though when it comes to psilocybin there is significant evidence to the contrary on both counts.

See the fact sheet for more information and sources.