The legalization of psilocybin: Is it necessary?
In the state of Oregon, residents will be able to vote in November on whether to legalize psilocybin, which is an active compound in psychedelic mushroom. Within the United States, psilocybin is illegal, and a Schedule I drug, defined as having a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use in treatment. However, in some states, it is legal to purchase magic mushroom spores and legal to grow them, such as in New Mexico, where growing does not constitute manufacturing under New Mexico law. Along with the state of Oregon, cities such as Oakland, California, and Denver, Colorado, had already decriminalized psilocybin.
Within Oregon, it is the Oregon Psilocybin Therapy Initiate, or Initiative Petition No. 34, which received enough signatures to appear on the November ballot. The drug would not become widely available if the motion passed, but it would empower the Oregon Health Authority to use the drug to provide a whole range of psilocybin services to patients. Psilocybin and psilocin are chemical compounds obtained from certain types of dried or fresh hallucinogenic mushrooms. The compounds have a similar structure to lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and are abused for the hallucinogenic and euphoric effects. There are more than 180 species of mushrooms that contain the chemicals and have been used in native or religious rites for centuries.
Hallucinogenic drugs interfere with serotonin within the brain and alter mood, sensory perception, sleep, hunger, body temperature, sexual behavior and muscle control. The physical effects include nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, confusion and lack of coordination. When combined with other substances, like alcohol or marijuana, the effects are worsened. More substantial doses do result in overdose and lead to intense hallucinogenic effects over a more extended time. The abuse of psilocybin could also lead to toxicity or death because of poisoning. Tolerance has also been documented, which means a person needs an increasingly larger dose to feel the same hallucinogenic effects.
Much of the western world is a drug culture where there is a pill to fix almost everything. Within addiction treatment, this is becoming a common trend, especially with opioid addiction. The idea of using psychedelic drugs to treat addiction has been spoken about for quite some time and coined as psychedelic-assisted therapy. Psychedelic drugs would be used to treat alcohol, cocaine, opiate and tobacco addictions. In 2016-17 at the peak of the opioid epidemic, a study was done using psychedelics — including LSD, mescaline and psilocybin, as well as opioids — to determine if supplementing hallucinogenic drugs, would reduce opioid addiction. The study found that the use of psychedelic drugs decreased the risk of opioid abuse and dependence, but now you have people becoming tolerant of and reliant on psychedelic drugs.
Sixty percent of the American population aged 12 or older were past-month substance users in 2018 — only 1.4% received any form of substance use treatment, and one in six Americans take psychiatric drugs. Are we that far removed from treating addiction and helping people become drug-free that we justify the use of any mind-altering drug at this point? Why does it seem that we are moving further away from promoting people to live a life without drugs? It seems it has become easier to medicate the addicted population than rehabilitate.
Cori Buck is a Newport resident, a health care professional and an expert in substance abuse and addiction recovery. She is a regular contributor to the health website Addicted.org.
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