Psilocybin research can make strides in mental illness treatment –

In 2006, researchers from Johns Hopkins University published a study reporting that most of the subjects rated their reaction to a single dose of psilocybin (a psychoactive substance found in certain mushrooms) as one of the most meaningful experiences of their lives. Months later, subjects completed a questionnaire on the lasting effects of their experience, with  80% ranking it as among the top five most meaningful experiences of their lives.
Charles Schuster, former director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), described the study as “one of the most rigorously well-controlled studies ever done” on psilocybin. Dozens of further publications have since confirmed both its exceptional therapeutic benefits and that it is without the sort of risks that warrant it being a Schedule I prohibited substance. Dr. Nora Volkow, the current director of NIDA, has likewise affirmed that unlike other illegal substances, psilocybin is not addictive.
By contrast, consider that the current drugs prescribed for depression, PTSD and other serious mental health disorders have a laundry list of severe negative side effects: mental fog, emotional blunting, sexual dysfunction, dependence, fatal overdoses (more than 5,000 Americans per year die from Tricyclic antidepressants), and, even more shockingly, black-box warnings of an increased risk of suicide. Yes, the FDA approves depression and PTSD drugs that increase the risk of suicide!
Hence, consider our government’s current pharmacological strategy for mental health: SSRIs, SNRIs and TCAs block negative thoughts by blunting the mind, but don’t heal. That is one reason why people are on them for years. They also make you chemically dependent upon them, so you’ll struggle to stop them even if they’re not helping. Psilocybin, by contrast, activates the mind, and lets one consciously reflect upon negative thought patterns in a new way, and often with just one dose, heal. No addiction. No dependence. Just one or two sessions, and the majority of subjects report exceptional improvement and even profound, life-changing personal insights, months and years later.
House Bill 3414 passed our House in March, but our Senate is resistant. Of course, we don’t want (as is one of their concerns) “another 788,” in the sense that we don’t want out-of-state black-marketeers exploiting it. But HB 3414 bears no relation to State Question 788. It neither commercialize sales nor cultivation. Both remain, as they are now, felonies. All that the bill does is (a) permit universities to research psilocybin; and (b) allows an affirmative defense for low-level personal possession, so that judges have the option to set aside a criminal conviction for those who can establish their use was to treat such conditions as depression or PTSD. We added (b) because we believe that our state should not ruin people’s lives for using a mushroom that grows naturally throughout the region to try to address their mental health challenges.
Despite all this, I do believe that psilocybin treatment should be under the guidance of trained professionals and am wary of its use in the absence of such professionals.  
Nevertheless, I also believe that no one should have their lives destroyed for trying it on their own. That’s the heart of it. Please contact your senators.
Lawrence Pasternack is the author of House Bill 3414. 


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