Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type

Capstone Project

Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Matthew K. Gold

Subject Categories

Behavioral Neurobiology | Journalism Studies | Other Chemicals and Drugs | Psychiatric and Mental Health | Social Statistics


Psilocybin, media, newspaper, neuroscience, therapy, psychedelic


Psilocybin is a chemical compound that has received a lot of attention from medical researchers in recent years. However, this research is not merely a medical issue but a social and political one as well. In the 1960s, psilocybin and other psychedelic compounds were widely ingested outside of clinical settings. This alarmed some of the American public, resulting in severe legal restrictions on psilocybin use and research.

Today, many psilocybin advocates hope that it will avoid the negative public sentiment of the 1960s. To help gauge public sentiment about other psychoactive compounds, some studies have examined newspaper coverage, but there seems to be no similar published work yet on psilocybin. Building on these previous studies, I read and analyzed every article mentioning psilocybin from four regional American newspapers between January 1, 1989 and December 31, 2019. Three main issues were examined: 1) Has sentiment about psilocybin changed? 2) Has the number of articles mentioning psilocybin changed? 3) Has there been a change in the use of different terms for psilocybin?

My study found that sentiment in these four newspapers fluctuated throughout the 30-year period, and a recent significant rise in positivity was only seen in one newspaper. The number of articles mentioning psilocybin significantly increased in just one newspaper. The only term for psilocybin that saw a decrease in use was “hallucinogenic mushrooms.” These results could be a warning to psilocybin advocates about the risk of negative social and political sentiment eventually growing again, though this is not conclusive. More investigation of this issue is recommended.

Website_Dax_Oliver.zip (1531 kB)
Website with Full Research Study as static HTML files

Data_Tables_(Dax_Oliver).zip (3 kB)
Research Data Tables

WARC_Files_(Dax_Oliver).warc (1421 kB)
Archived website as a WARC file, created using Conifer – web archive player available at https://github.com/webrecorder/webrecorderplayer-electron