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Scientists are testing the synthetic version of the active compound in “magic mushrooms,” psilocybin, for a variety of purposes, including treatment of alcoholism, according to The compound is also being studied as a smoking cessation aid.

At the recent annual meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, scientists described their research using the hallucinogen. According to the article, psilocybin is the active ingredient in more than 100 species of mushroom, and has been used for hundreds of years in ceremonies and rituals in South America.

Studies on psilocybin’s effect on smoking cessation and alcoholism have just started, but early results are promising, researchers say.

A study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry by UCLA researchers found psilocybin improved the mood of patients with anxiety related to a diagnosis of advanced-stage cancer for at least three months.

Once ingested, magic mushrooms generally cause feelings of nausea before the desired mental effects appear. The high from using magic mushrooms is mild and may cause altered feelings and distorted perceptions of touch, sight, sound and taste. Other effects can include nervousness and paranoia. On some trips, users experience sensations that are enjoyable. Others can include terrifying thoughts, and anxiety, fears of insanity, death, or losing control.

Some magic mushroom users experience “flashbacks,” which are reoccurrences of hallucinations long after ingesting the drug. The causes of these effects, which in some users occur after a single experience with the drug, are not known.

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