OPINION M109: When treatment failed, psilocybin saved my life
I believe psilocybin therapy saved my life.
I was a Navy SEAL for 18 years and spent most of these years in combat deployments. My years of service took a toll on me. After being medically retired in 2017, I realized that I was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
While I didn't fully recognize it at the time, deep down I knew something was wrong. I was angry all the time, but I didn't know why. Later, I would come to realize that I had severe depression, anxiety, trauma and an addiction to drugs and alcohol. I felt dead inside, like I wasn't able to live anymore. I wouldn't wish the way I felt then on anybody.
Doctors tried to help me with pills and talk therapy, yet nothing worked. When I was finally done with the side effects and disappointment of antidepressants, I went searching for something more effective. After two years, I reunited with an old military friend who connected me with an organization dedicated to helping veterans access psilocybin therapy in a regulated and controlled setting, under the watch of a trained and certified facilitator.
Learn more about Measure 109
After just one psilocybin therapy session, my life forever changed for the better. I began to live again. Today, I am exponentially more present in my life. I have so much more awareness. I'm reconnecting with a lot of the guys I served with, people who have also found psilocybin therapy and as a result, we have a long-lasting bond and a totally new connection.
Thanks to psilocybin therapy, I have a newfound appreciation for life. I can actually be happy again.
What many people may not realize is that psilocybin therapy isn't new — it has been around for generations and was first given a bad rap during Nixon's war on drugs. There are more than 40 years of research behind it. In fact, the FDA recently granted it a "breakthrough therapy" designation for treatment-resistant depression and major depression disorder — meaning that psilocybin therapy may demonstrate substantial improvement over what's currently available.
Leading medical research institutions such as Johns Hopkins, UCLA and NYU have demonstrated that psilocybin therapy may be effective in treating depression and anxiety, including for people with advanced cancers. Psilocybin therapy also significantly decreased alcohol consumption for people with Alcohol Use Disorder and helped heavy smokers abstain from tobacco at 12-month follow-up.
Unlike pharmaceuticals, psilocybin is a natural compound found in more than 200 species of mushrooms. It is non-toxic and non-addictive. And most people will only need one or two treatments in a therapeutic setting to experience the benefits.
In November, Oregonians have the opportunity to choose to make this therapy available to more people through Measure 109. The measure includes many safeguards to ensure psilocybin is only used for therapeutic purposes. Measure 109 establishes a regulatory framework within the Oregon Health Authority that will allow trained practitioners to administer psilocybin therapy at newly licensed centers.
It also imposes a two-year development period before initial licenses are granted, to give the state time to establish a training and licensing system for psilocybin facilitators, psilocybin manufacturers and testing labs.
Recreational sales of psilocybin will not be allowed, and it will only be available within a controlled therapeutic setting. No therapy centers will be allowed in residential neighborhoods or near schools. Minors will not get access.
I know I am not alone in needing new treatment options for mental health issues. Oregon had the worst mental health crisis in the country before the pandemic. As we all grapple with a deep recession, job losses and the consequences of historic wildfires, we know even more Oregonians are suffering. They deserve access to psilocybin therapy in a safe and controlled setting. I know how beneficial it has been to me and my life, and how beneficial it will be for others.
I ask Oregonians to join me in voting "yes" on Measure 109, so more of us can have access to a groundbreaking therapy that changes lives.
Chad Kuske is a resident of Lake Oswego and medically retired veteran who served in the Navy SEALs for 18 years, with 12 combat deployments. To learn more about the measure, visit voteyeson109.org.
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