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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Can we heal through psychadelics?

Jul 26, 2021 02:46PM ● By Wendell Fowler
The magic mushroom revival

The magic mushroom revival

Wincing, I flash back to early 1970 when I attended a Led Zeppelin concert at Boston Garden. I was higher than a hippie in a hot air balloon on magic mushrooms. As strobe lights bedecked the stage and Jimmy Page began “Whole Lotta Love,” I leapt in exuberance, nearly plunging off the balcony. If not for the quick grasp of my lucid companion, I would have taken the stairway to heaven express.

It was definitely a foolish use of psilocybin mushrooms, but my frontal lobes were infantile. I confess, innocently dabbling in psychedelics opened doors to my mind that some might suggest should have remained shut. But I digress.

Flash forward: John Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research scientists have discovered psilocybin found in psychedelic mushrooms has vast benefits for treating trauma, PTSD, anxiety, depression, addiction (smoking, alcohol, opiate or other drugs of abuse), schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorders, and clinical depression. And, it can heighten brain function.

Despite ongoing research into its therapeutic and medical benefits, psilocybin has been listed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act since 1970, which includes heroin, crack cocaine and meth. However, the times they are a changin’ as cannabis, psilocybin, ayahuasca and MDMA are currently recognized as beneficial when used in a supervised setting under the watchful eye of experienced, legally approved medical authorities.

Good vibrations

Decades of researching plant food as medicine taught me that many psychoactive plant medicines and treatments—stigmatized as dangerous, evil tools of Satan, and illegal—are rising to new research laboratories, suggesting there just might be something to earth’s psychoactive plant medicines.

“Psychiatrists, scientists and mental health professionals considered psychedelics like psilocybin to be promising treatments as an aid to therapy for a broad range of psychiatric diagnoses,” stated the Drug Policy Alliance, whose supporters work to ensure the U.S.’ drug policies cease to criminalize those disproportionately affected by the war on drugs.

New research published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that in the search for new ways of tackling depression, researchers have compared psilocybin against a well-established antidepressant in a small phase II trial. 

It’s still early research, but promisingly, the results show psilocybin was at least as effective as the common antidepressant when used alongside psychological therapy. Previous studies suggested psilocybin doesn’t produce nearly as many side effects as antidepressants and its effects are almost immediate.

Upcoming studies will determine the effectiveness of psilocybin as a new therapy for opioid addiction, Alzheimer’s disease, PTSD, post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, anorexia nervosa and alcohol use in people with major depression.

One study of psilocybin by John Hopkins researchers showed it produced substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer, and that mystical-type experiences affected therapeutic outcomes. 

High-dose psilocybin produced large decreases in clinician- and self-rated measures of depressed mood and anxiety, along with increases in quality of life, life meaning and optimism, and decreases in death anxiety. At a 6-month follow up, these changes were sustained, with about 80 percent of participants continuing to show clinically significant decreases in depressed mood and anxiety.


Decriminalizing ’shrooms

On “60 Minutes” Anderson Cooper reported that two-thirds of patients said they believed taking the drug in the clinical setting was one of the most meaningful experiences of their lives. 

“For some, it was on par with the birth of their children,” he said.

Nonetheless, it’s still considered an illegal class 1 drug and can result in significant jail time.

A New York Times op-ed titled, “Can Magic Mushrooms Heal Us?” noted a very promising mental health experiment taking shape in Oregon, which is about to become the first state to try to build a support infrastructure through which psychedelic mushrooms can be woven into everyday life. 

“This framework is different from what we’ve seen before: not legalization, not medicalization, but therapeutic use, in licensed facilities, under the guidance of professionals trained to guide psychedelic experiences,” the article stated.

Several other municipalities have already decriminalized psilocybin mushrooms, including Denver; Oakland, California; and Washington, DC. 

According to Newsweek, in Denver, the adult possession and use of psilocybin mushrooms became the city’s lowest law enforcement priority, further prohibiting the city from spending resources on penalizing ’shroom use. 

Philosopher and teacher Rudolf Steiner once said, “For every human illness, somewhere in the world there exists a plant which is the cure.” 

Perhaps it’s time to explore becoming inward-traveling psychonauts seeking healing, enhanced creativity, and even spiritual expansion through a naturally occurring edible plant—if done legally under supervision in the proper setting, not the purple haze of a cacophonous concert.

Party talk: Changing times create new dialogue

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