The last few years have marked the resurgence of research into the medicinal properties of psychedelics, and there are a few key countries that are leading this effort. The US, Canada, and the Netherlands are where the majority of psychedelic companies are operating because their governments have been allowing research and showing interest in changing their strict regulations around psychedelic compounds.
The research and development of psychedelic treatments being done in these countries have paved the way for others to hop on board. There is a quickly growing body of research showing the efficacy of psychedelics to treat mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD. New clinical trial data and studies done by biotech companies and institutions such as Johns Hopkins are coming out regularly. These studies are easing fear that psychedelics are dangerous, and giving hope to governments and individuals who are struggling with mental health issues. Global interest is growing, and Thailand has recently jumped on board the psychedelic train.
Psychedelics are Making a Breakthrough in Thailand
Thailand’s Justice Minister, Somak Thepsutin, recently announced that they will be exploring psilocybin (the psychoactive compound found in magic mushrooms) to help treat the country’s depressed citizens.
This does not mean that there are any changes to the legality of mushrooms, at least not yet. The government will be working with Khon Haen University to carry out trials on a psilocybin medication– they are working with a synthetic version of the compound. If they find that it can help treat depression, mushrooms may become legal.
Justice Minister Thepsutin has shown a continued interest in softening the laws around non-harmful plant medicines over the past two years. Last year, the country loosened laws on Kratom and Medicinal Marijuana. Mushrooms are perhaps the next plant to have their medicinal properties recognized by the Thai government.
Kratom, a plant in the same family as coffee was recently legalized. The mild drug was previously classified in the same schedule as mushrooms. The plant is native to Thailand and other countries in the surrounding area. It was legalized because of its ability to help treat pain without the adverse effects of many available painkillers. The Thai government also said that legalizing the plant would help reduce costs in the legal system. Drug laws surrounding mushrooms, and previously Kratom, are strict and there is a large number of people currently in prison for possession and intent to sell.
Magic mushrooms are a category 5 drug under the Narcotics Act. Any drug listed under this act is considered to be dangerous and highly addictive. MDMA and LSD are listed under Category 1 of this act along with Heroin. Current regulations can land users of mushrooms in prison for up to a year, which is similar to federal laws in the United States. Those selling mushrooms in Thailand face 2-15 years in prison. Smuggling drugs over the border warrants life in prison or the possibility of the death penalty.
Much like the other countries that are loosening their regulations around psychedelics, Thailand is struggling with finding a successful treatment for mental health disorders that are affecting a large percentage of the population.
World Population Review estimates nearly three million cases of depressive disorder in Thailand. High suicide rates have led the government to start looking for effective solutions to treat depressed citizens. Over the past decade, they have increased the availability of depression treatment including the development of treatment centers and programs. However, they are still searching for more effective treatments.
A Global Shift
The US was one of the first countries to ban magic mushrooms back in the 70s. After that, they quickly became illegal in much of the world. There are now very few countries that allow magic mushrooms, or any psychedelics for that matter. There are a handful of countries where psychedelics are either legal or laws are not strictly enforced. Some people travel to these countries to gain access to treatment, but the majority of those who could benefit will not be able to access it until their governments allow them to obtain it locally.
Jamaica has become a popular spot for psilocybin ceremonies and retreats because the substance is legal and therefore is tested and regulated. Many South and Central American countries, such as Brazil, Mexico, Costa Rica, Peru, and Columbia have legal access to Ayahuasca and San Pedro because of their traditional uses, but still have bans on other psychedelics. Though mushrooms and LSD are illegal in countries like Mexico and Peru, the laws are not strictly enforced. Some parts of Thailand even have bars where you can purchase magic mushroom milkshakes and enjoy a trip on the beach. However, the future of psychedelics is going to be more than ayahuasca retreats in the Jungle or enjoying mushrooms recreationally on vacation.
Biotechnology companies are working to create medicines and treatments that are widely accessible. Many of these medications will be ready in the next few years and people must be able to access them. As more studies come out, more countries, such as Thailand, will begin to loosen their laws. Thailand could perhaps influence other south-east Asian countries to start looking at how psychedelics could help their citizens. This is a region that has not shown significant interest in psychedelics previously. One thing is for certain, and that is that the psychedelic movement is spreading across the globe.