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A Guide to Psilocybin


The recent hectic discussions of psilocybin, a drug that alters perception, have fused six separate issues. For the benefit of those who have ben confused, the following list details these questions:

Legality: psilocybin must bear the label, "may be habit-forming," according to the Pure Food and Drug Act. It is, however, not under the jurisdiction of the Federal Narcotics Agency.

Morality: many observers and critics have strong reservations on the use of drugs like psilocybin even in carefully controlled experiments.

The conduct of research: a standing University rule forbids undergraduates to participate in experiments involving drugs; this rule is not presently under discussion, nor are there current charges that its is being violated.

The role of graduate students in research: one of the major issues in the recent meeting of the staff of the Center for Research in Personality was the degree to which experiments in scientifically dubious areas such as psilocybin were a legitimate part of the training of graduate students. The converse issue was whether participation in such research might obstruct more conventional training.

The nature of research: this is the issue that has virtually split open the staff of the Center for Research in Personality. The most vociferous critics of psilocybin research believe that it is not conducted for scientific purposes, and that the experimenters are interested in experience rather than reporting their results. A major element of the defense of research contends that scientific method and reportable results are the goal of the research. But a second element of the defense claims that experience is a legitimate goal of inquiry, and that psilocybin should be used in order to heighten perception so that the experimenters may gain new insight into personality by perceiving behavior more clearly while under influence of the drugs.

These are the issues:

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