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State of Mind- Magic Mushrooms?

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Romaree Herbert

What does the idea of “magic mushrooms” conjure up in your mind? For me, I picture the story of Alice in Wonderland where Alice meets up with the hookah-smoking caterpillar who tells her that if she eats one part of the mushroom, she will grow bigger, but if she eats from other part, she will get smaller. I also imagine that after eating the mushroom, what it would be like to take trip with Alice down the rabbit hole, ending up in a neon-colored world scattered with vibrant life-sized flowers and creatures while tumbling through the clouds.

Recently, my close friend and writer Denise Nelson mentioned that she had been hearing new reports that using magic mushrooms, helped ease different mental health disorders and this led us into many discussions and discoveries. I was fascinated by this phenomenon and asked if she could help explore some of the current information on the subject.

We are in the middle of a worldwide mental health crisis. Statistics bombard us and they are terrifying and staggering.: One in five American adults are depressed; almost 300 million people worldwide report having depressive episodes; one in 25 U.S. adults’ lives with a serious mental disorder, such as schizophrenia.

A story aired by KVIA channel 7 earlier this summer revealed that access to mental health care in the Lone Star State is severely lacking. According to the non-profit group Mental Health America, Texas ranks in the lower half among states for mental health issues and access to care. To make matters worse, the rate of reported incidents of mental illness is rising, even though many of us are on antidepressants, in addition to receiving other mental health services. Something just is not adding up.

All these studies, reports and data beg the million-dollar question: What is the solution to the mental health crisis? Turns out the free-loving, tree-hugging hippies may have been onto something, and LSD, magic mushrooms and other psychedelics were much more than party favors. In the early 1960’s use of these drugs as a therapeutic modality began to take hold, as scientists and researchers discovered that with even just one psychedelic experience, some individuals benefited from lasting relief from depression and anxiety, with some even reporting feeling “cured.”

Along came notorious Harvard psychologist Timothy Leary, his entourage and their infamous “Acid Test” parties, and the scale was tipped. These drugs became demonized by our government and our media, despite evidence of their benefits in the effective treatment of mental health disorders. Enter political red tape and a little something called the Controlled Substances Act, and all research into the therapeutic benefits of ingesting certain hallucinogenic compounds effectively ground to a screeching halt. Psychedelics like LSD and magic mushrooms were placed into the Schedule 1 category, along with narcotics such as methamphetamine and heroin, deeming them to have no medicinal or therapeutic benefits.

Luckily, heads were pulled out of certain other parts of the human anatomy and research into the therapeutic potentiality of psychedelic compounds resumed. For years studies and data show that active ingredients in substances like ayahuasca, DMT, LSD and psilocybin can create new synaptic connections in the brain. You may have heard the word neuroplasticity, which refers to the brain’s ability to create new connections and pathways. More connections equal a happier brain. Although the definition is simplified, the outcome is what matters.

Researchers have found that at even exceedingly tiny amounts, various psychedelic compounds can potentially relieve the symptoms of depression and anxiety. So do not fret if a full-on, “my face is melting,” “I can fly” psychedelic experience is not on your radar. Another buzz word bandied about recently is “microdosing.” This refers to a sub perceptual dose, typically one fifth to one twentieth of a recreational dose. Anecdotal evidence shows a typical recreational dose of dried magic mushrooms is around one to three grams. The U.S. is embarrassingly, and hinging on criminally, behind on providing funds for research into the benefits of using psychedelics and Psychedelic Assisted Therapy. Many European nations and Canada have made huge progressive leaps in this area.

Early this year, Alberta was the first province in the country to authorize the use of certain psychedelics for therapeutic purposes, including LSD, DMT, psilocybin, MDMA (commonly referred to as Ecstasy) and mescaline. The caveat is that these drugs should be administered while concurrently participating in psychotherapy.

In May the Oregon Health Authority issued its first ever psilocybin service license, meaning anyone 21 years and older may access psilocybin services without a prescription or referral from a healthcare provider. The client must meet certain criteria, and after moving forward in the program, can begin treatment with a qualified and licensed facilitator.

Facilitators are trained to help the client integrate their psychedelic experience, to alleviate depressive episodes and symptoms. California is also embracing change. Just last month the Senate gave final approval on a bill legalizing certain psychedelics for people 21 and older.

It is my hope that as private individuals, scientists and mental healthcare continue to beat the drums of disgust, disillusion and dissatisfaction with our country’s sorely lacking, severely dispassionate approach to treating mental health issues, we will make some very real and necessary headway and radical changes to the current system, thereby offering a sparkle of light to those individuals who suffer in the shadows.

For additional resources and information on microdosing visit: https://www.oregon.gov/oha/ph/preventionwellness/pages/psilocybin-access -psilocybin-services.aspx https://mushroomdispensary.com/userguide

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