Psilocybin The Next Frontier of Mental Health Treatment

Magic mushrooms.  Confess nothing, but many people may already be familiar with the psychedelic effects of specific types of mushrooms.  And when it comes to using psychedelics, it is either a love or hate relationship.  Some people find the hallucinatory state of being upsetting and never trying them again.

And then others find themselves mentally liberated after a psychedelic trip.  Part of the mystique about psychedelic substances like psilocybin, peyote, ketamine, and ayahuasca is how it unlocks cognitive processes. And how psychedelics can be useful for traumas that the brain has repressed.

Treatment-resistant depression (TRD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are two mental health conditions that are difficult to treat. While they are two separate diagnoses, they share similar features.  The root cause of the mental health crisis is buried deep.  Sometimes at levels of the subconscious that cannot be reached in sober states. 

The exciting potential of psychedelic medications like psilocybin or ketamine is their ability to unlock doors of the psyche.  And from there, start to extrapolate traumas and address them with prescription and talk-therapy.

The United States Leads in Per Capita Suicide Rates

Out of all developed nations, the United States has the highest suicide rate. According to a January 2020 report released by The Commonwealth Fund, suicides account for 14 deaths per 100,000 people in America.  That is more than double the per capita rate of the United Kingdom.  

Health officials are concerned that the additional stressors caused by the Covid-19 health emergency will create an increase of ‘deaths of despair” in the United States, which includes self-harm, injury, or suicide by drug overdose.

The privatized healthcare system of the United States makes it difficult for people to afford mental health treatments.  Unless subsidized by an employer, counseling and other therapeutics are not usually covered by insurance plans.  And interventions like a 24-hour hold (meant to intervene in a suicide attempt) are also becoming less available. 

For decades, the United States has reduced spending on mental health programs. To the extent that some of the best resources for Americans with treatment-resistant depression or post-traumatic stress disorder may be charitable organizations and programs.  

There is a significant gap in mental healthcare in the United States. And residents that are most at risk for self-harm are often the same patients that fall through those gaps.  They remain untreated with unresolved symptoms and give up hope for a return to everyday life.

What is Psilocybin and How Does It Work?

Some medical researchers have suggested that sustaining regular psilocybin treatments can reduce remission for TRD patients. In other words, psychedelic treatments can be so effective that patients may break free permanently from the grip of major depressive episodes.

Psilocybin is derived from a specific mushroom that grows in Mexico, South America, and some United States’ subtropical areas.  Ready for some science? Psilocybin is called 4-phosphoryloxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine.  It is classified as an indole-alkylamine (tryptamine), and the effects are similar to LSD.

Psilocybin produces psychedelic and hallucinogenic psychoactive experiences.  One of the reasons why magic mushrooms have this effect is that they impact the 5-HT receptors of the central nervous system. Think of those receptors as your ‘creative and happy’ zones.  

Using psilocybin medicinally is nothing new. Our ancestors have been using psychedelics for rituals and ‘spirit walking’ for thousands of years. The Mayan and Aztec civilizations used peyote and mushrooms also to prepare their warriors for battle. 

Depending on the patient’s dose and the tolerance level, psilocybin can produce a soulful and enlightening trip. However, it is impossible to predict if the mushroom trip will be a positive one or something negative or scary. 

The visions the patient will see depend entirely on their mood and other chemical reactions in their body. Psychedelics can, however, help unlock deep-rooted emotional distress. And then help patients resolve those issues with cognitive behavioral therapy.

What States Have Legalized Psilocybin Treatments?

Oregon made the news during the November 2020 election. State voters moved to legalize psychedelic drugs like psilocybin and ketamine for mental health treatments. And the state also decriminalized psychedelics.  So, if you don’t have a prescription and get caught with a small number of mushrooms, you will not face a criminal charge.

Oregon follows behind the city of Denver, Colorado.  In 2019, Denver decided to decriminalize psychedelic drugs.  Psychedelics are illegal in Colorado (and a federally prohibited Schedule I drug). But in the city of Denver, having a small personal amount of psilocybin may not resolve a criminal charge. Citizens might have to pay a fine.  But selling or producing psilocybin in Denver will lead to significant legal problems. 

Other states are watching Denver closely. The city reported that one year after the decriminalization of psychedelics, that there seem to be no fallout issues with safety. Or social complaints about it. It has simply become a protected personal choice. And another option for mental health and self-care.

After Denver decriminalized, the Californian municipalities of Oakland and Santa Cruz decriminalized other psychedelic drugs.  This included ayahuasca and peyote. And activists are pushing forward to legalize controlled retail sales for medical and recreational psychedelics.

How Long Will It Take to Legalize Psychedelics in the United States

In countries like the Netherlands, psychedelics are no big deal. You can get psychedelics at every dispensary in the country.  And edible gummy psychedelics are very popular.  To be clear, not many people will pop a psychedelic edible in their mouth and head downtown.  Most people do micro-dosing safely at home instead.

Psychedelics may have a big uphill climb, however, in the United States.  There are some medical concerns about psychedelic drugs and the rare but possible instances of psychosis after use. Psilocybin is not naturally addictive.

Unlike nicotine in cigarettes, the chemistry of magic mushrooms is not addictive. But the liberating experience of euphoria and release might be.  It feels really good to let go, and that’s exactly what happens after a psilocybin trip. It can be the ultimate mental detox.

Will psychedelics be recreationally legalized in the United States? Not likely in the near future. Look how long it has taken to legalize cannabis statewide. Today, thirty-six states have legalized medical cannabis.

Legalization progress may be stifled as attentions focus on the Novel Covid-19 coronavirus emergency.  Or, it may speed forward as states seek new tax revenue sources to cope with the pandemic. Nonetheless, America may closely follow the model being used successfully in Canada when it comes to psychedelics. Prescribed only by doctors and administered by a healthcare provider.

Psilocybin Retreats and Vacations for Mental Health

Before the pandemic nixed international travel, some countries were starting to invest heavily in resorts. Not just any resorts to entice North American travelers. The idea was to create a trip within a trip.  Or a safe vacation where travelers could enjoy a physician-supervised psychedelic trip.

Think about it for a second.  The stresses of daily life build-up, but do you ever have an opportunity to discharge the weight of those stressors? Time off helps everyone recharge.  But what about some of the toxicity that we may be storing deep down inside our emotions.  And in the hidden server farm of the human brain?

Psychedelics have always been illegal to grow, possess or consume.  But when you consider how many cultures use psychedelics for spiritual enlightenment, prohibition seems out of place. After all, we’ve been aware of ‘special mushrooms’ for thousands of years.

Now imagine the ultimate retreat, where you can enjoy the sun and the sand. Great food and a slowed-down pace for a week.  Heavenly right?  At psilocybin retreats, you would undergo a health check and evaluation.  Undoubtedly, you’d also sign a limited liability waiver. 

The physician or practitioner at the resort would determine the optimal daily dose for you.   Depending on the level of experience you wanted to have. Psilocybin or ketamine retreats are a long-shot in the United States, but there are many countries you can visit to experience a psychedelic lift-off. One that can stimulate creativity and provide the ultimate stress relief.

Bio: Lori Reese is from Toronto, Canada, and a passionate advocate for patients with rare and chronic diseases, and access to alternative medicine. She has a background in pharmaceutical and health regulation in Canada and the United States.  Lori is the Content Marketing Manager for MarijuanaDoctors.com, America’s leading medical cannabis online resource since 2010.

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