In the past, psychedelic plants and fungi had essential roles in indigenous traditions. Thus, these natural psychedelics are also known as entheogenic plants and fungi. Some examples of these are ayahuasca, psilocybin, and ibogaine.
Indigenous tribes in South America use ayahuasca during rituals. The ayahuasca tea ceremonies are sacred. They have held significant religious and medicinal benefits in their culture. In South Africa, Bwiti ceremonies use ibogaine. It’s an initiation that marks the passage of children becoming young men and women.
As you can see, people use these psychedelic substances for a variety of reasons. Some have used them for personal spiritual growth. And some have strengthened community bonds in many tribes and cultures.
Benefits of Psilocybin
Psilocybin is the hallucinogenic compound found in magic mushrooms. These mushrooms do not have the mass-market appeal of marijuana or cannabis. But, they are effective in treating a wide array of mental health disorders.
According to studies, psilocybin and psychotherapy are effective treatments for the following:
- major depressive disorder
- PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
- drug addiction
A team of scholars at Johns Hopkins University studied natural psychedelics. They obtained approval in 2000 to do clinical trials. And they researched the benefits of using psilocybin using healthy volunteers. Here are some of the benefits of using psilocybin mushrooms:
- curbs addictions (nicotine, alcohol, opioid)
- treat depression
- treat post-traumatic stress disorder
- ease end-of-life or existential anxiety
- improves mood
Results show that psychedelic drugs help people kick their addictions. Patients who were dependent on nicotine, alcohol, and opioid got better. Those who had trouble with their habits were able to recover.
Psychedelic drugs trigger a “high” when introduced to the body. This experience positively affects a person’s mood and mental well-being. So how does it happen? It remains a mystery, but researchers say this is an excellent avenue to explore.
Recent studies show that psychedelics help the brain forge new connections. They break the habitual patterns of neural activity. These patterns are associated with how depression and addiction start in the brain.
They say that this occurs when psychedelics break these patterns. And make new connections in the brain. The brain becomes more flexible when this happens.
There are stories of people experiencing the adverse effects of psychedelics. But, the psychedelic experience will vary from one person to another. Some will experience disturbing audio and visual hallucinations. Others will lose track of time. And some may even experience nausea and vomiting.
So, it’s not always going to be a good trip. And here are some factors that may affect your psychedelic encounter:
- the person’s psychology
- amount or dose of drugs
- location or setting
Psilocybin in Washington
In 2003, Seattle voters were able to pass an initiative on marijuana. As a result, adult marijuana possession became the lowest law enforcement priority. And in 2012, Washington D.C. became the first to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.
In 2017, Washington state adopted a law to approve natural psychedelics. So people can use them for their therapeutic, spiritual, and recreational use. In 2019, the administration passed a federal Right to Try Act. But the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) remains tight. This is especially when accessing and using controlled substances.
Decriminalize Nature Seattle is part of a national network called Decriminalize Nature. This group continues to show support, and they advocate for the use of entheogens. They believe that these could be of more help than harm to people, especially those suffering from mental disorders. Patients who suffer are always in search of ways to get better. And the group believes that allowing access to entheogens is the answer.
The group aims to legalize plant-based psychedelic drugs in Washington state. They are trying to pass related resolutions through the Seattle City Council. They are focusing on making nature-derived psychedelics the lowest priority for law enforcement. No more penalty for those who use entheogens,
Kody Zalewski is currently a medical researcher at the University of Washington. Although he is working on neuroimaging, he has not researched the effect of these drugs on the brain.
He has always been interested in entheogenic medicine. And he has since advocated for plant-based drugs. Kody also serves on the executive committee of Decriminalize Nature Seattle.
According to him, the research in psychedelic drugs is currently flourishing. But there are still a lot of challenges. Decriminalizing entheogenic plants and fungi is one of the many steps. But, many have already published their success stories using psilocybin.
And the administration passed the Entheogenic Plants and Fungus Policy Act of 2020.
Earlier this year, Dr. Sunil Aggarwal, a Seattle-based doctor, sued the U.S. DEA. The agency denied his application to use psilocybin. He was planning on using the treatment for patients in critical condition. But, he mentioned that patients should have access to investigational medications.
In September 2020, voters in Washington D.C. supported the decriminalization initiative. And in November 2020, the majority of the voters voted in favor of the initiative on Election Day. But, they already approved the use of psychedelic mushrooms as a treatment option. As of now, Washington D.C. has not yet voted for the legalization of psilocybin.
In February 2021, Spokane, Washington, voters filed a proposed ordinance. They hope to allow the use of psilocybin mushrooms. Decriminalize Nature Spokane was the group that introduced this initiative.
The group submitted the proposed ordinance to the City Council. It was on the agenda for Monday, March 1. But, local legislators chose not to act on it. So, the proposed ordinance needed to be vetted by city officials. Afterward, advocates and supporters can gather the required number of signatures.
The activists need to collect 3,477 signatures to put the reform on the ballot. Mason Lord was the chief petitioner. And he mentioned that these substances show medical and therapeutic potential. So people who need it the most need open access to it.
What’s the situation in other states?
In 2019, Denver was the first U.S. city to decriminalize the use of psilocybin. Ann, Arbor, Michigan, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Oakland, and Santa Cruz, California, followed suit. And Somerville, Massachusetts, and Washington D.C. were next. These cities have also decriminalized more entheogens. They included plants and fungi that have mescaline and DMT.
In 2020, Oregon was one of the first states to decriminalize the use of psilocybin. And they took a step further in their local drug laws. In November, the state passed Measure 109 and Measure 110. Voters approved these measures. And these measures reclassified the possession of controlled substances as a minor violation. These measures are still limited. Because they did not go as far as legalizing the manufacturing and sales of illicit drugs. Some of these illegal drugs include cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines.
As of now, we are in an era where drug decriminalization is becoming more common. But we need more scientific research to prove the effectiveness of psilocybin further. This also includes other nature-based psychedelics.
The best thing we can do is to help destigmatize natural psychedelics. We already know that they provide more benefit than harm. Proper information dissemination about the medical and therapeutic benefits will help. And responsible journalism is key to having a better foundation for drug reform.