Mention psychedelics and one is likely to conjure Timothy Leary’s famous experiments or neon colored posters illuminated by black lights. Psilocybin, casually known as magic mushrooms, is a naturally occurring chemical present in many species that has long been used in religious rituals across continents and cultures.
Psychedelics were a large part of the mind-bending drug culture of the 1960s, but Leary was interested in their medicinal properties in addition to their recreational use. Through research endeavors such as the Harvard Psilocybin Project and Concord Prison Experiment, he explored the drug’s potential to do everything from treating depression and addiction to increasing recidivism among criminals. Psilocybin works by disrupting existing neural pathways to alter perception, and in doing so provides an opportunity to change those pathways, or even create new ones.