Psychedelic therapy decriminalization and legalization is following a similar path to medical cannabis, it appears. The FDA labeled psilocybin a “breakthrough therapy” in 2019. Johns Hopkins University launched its Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research in 2019 as well. The tide also seems to be turning legally.

IP 34 Oregon

On July 8, the Oregon Secretary of State announced that IP 34, the Oregon psilocybin therapy ballot measure, made it on to Oregon’s November ballot. In November of 2020 in Oregon, you’ll be able to cast a vote for Donald Trump, and for psilocybin therapy if you so choose. No, this is not an episode of The Simpsons.

“We are thrilled that Oregon voters have come together to tackle mental health and depression by qualifying this ballot measure for the November election,” said Tom Eckert, a licensed psychotherapist, who serves as co-chief petitioner for the initiative. “Oregonians deserve access to psilocybin therapy as a treatment option — and now we officially have a chance to win it.” 

The initiative easily collected enough signatures by the July 2 deadline to make it on the ballot. Despite a pandemic that made signature collecting a unique challenge. 

“We want to thank the thousands of volunteers and the over 160,000 Oregonians that made this ballot measure possible, and we look forward to talking with voters over the next four months to share the research and show why psilocybin therapy is a part of our collective answer to the mental health crisis our state faces,” said Sheri Eckert, Tom’s wife and co-chief petitioner. “This careful, regulated approach can make a real difference in people’s lives and we’re looking forward to bringing this program to the state.”

Psychedelic Integration in Seattle

But it’s not just Oregon. Psilocybin therapy is making waves all over the country. 

Here in Washington, psilocybin therapy isn’t yet legal. But psychedelic integration therapy is not illegal. Psychedelic integration therapy is a practice where therapists assist patients who have had individual psychedelic experiences with integrating those lessons into everyday life. 

That can mean different things for different healers. Hila Corazon, a Seattle-based “integration buddy” mostly helps folks out who turn to psychedelics for help getting off of drugs.

Corazon describes folks fresh off of a psychedelic experience as being ‘shiny’. She helps them harness this energy for longterm healing and recovery. Her clientele are mainly folks who have recently had ibogaine, ayahuasca, and psilocybin treatment in order to help them get off of heroin, meth, or alcohol.  As a “sobriety buddy” Corazon takes a slower, more measured approach to healing than traditional methods. 

“Our society’s healing model encourages fast-tracked healing,” Corazon explains. “Get treatment, go away. They call it ‘streamlined’.” 

According to Corazon, sobriety coaching is more about personal connection and support following these often transformative psychedelic experiences. This approach differs from the traditional medicated approaches to addiction and depression recovery. Medicines like suboxone, methadone, and even SSRIs treat the symptoms of addiction and depression, but not the root causes. 

“Psychotropic drugs are for symptom management. They’re not meant to be permanent solutions,” Corazon said. “These drugs make life more manageable. Psychedelics actually make things harder, they make you examine your life. It may take several sessions to uncover deeper issues. That’s not going to happen with SSRIs, they just make things more status-oriented. Psychedelics are more healing oriented.” 

How and Why Psilocybin Works

Neuroscience is a complicated matter and one that I will not pretend to understand. Luckily, the experts at Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research do understand. 

In May, the prestigious University released findings that indicate psilocybin reduces the activity of the claustrum, a part of the brain where the ego is said to live. This is in line with what psychedelic researchers have been saying for decades. Including Aldous Huxley in “The Doors of Perception,” which was published in 1954. It also tracks with what pretty much anyone who has experimented with psilocybin and similar psychedelics has reported.

“Our findings move us one step closer to understanding mechanisms underlying how psilocybin works in the brain,” says Frederick Barrett, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a member of the school’s Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research. “This will hopefully enable us to better understand why it’s an effective therapy for certain psychiatric disorders, which might help us tailor therapies to help people more.”

The Future of Psilocybin Therapy

With so much happening in the world of psilocybin therapy, many are wondering what’s next. 

The renowned cannabis law firm Harris Bricken held a webinar titled “Ketamine, Psilocybin, and New Drug Therapies” on July 9, and will hold another on July 19. The webinar extrapolates knowledge gained from the legal cannabis and CBD markets to layout a likely legal framework for psychedelic therapy. This demonstrates an interest in the subject from the firm’s clientele. 

Folks like Corazon hope that the capitalistic principles that dominate the legal cannabis market don’t carry over to psilocybin. Until psilocybin therapy is legal to practice, it’s impossible to know what exactly legal psilocybin therapy will look like, and whether it will end up a sacred medicine, or a bastardized version of itself. 

 

Photo courtesy Johns Hopkins University