'Magic Mushroom' psychedelic may ease anxiety, depression
The psychedelic drug in "magic mushrooms" has been found to help treat anxiety and depression in cancer patients. The substance, psilocybin, also called shrooms, is illegal in the United States.
Bipartisan support is mountingfor legislation that would add an unusual new tool to combat the state's mental health crisis byseeking to legalize research of psychedelic substances.
The bill, authored by Rep. Daniel Pae, R-Lawton, would allow for the state's universities and research institutions to begin studyingpsilocybin and psilocin, the chemicals in "magic mushrooms"that produce a psychedelic state.
It is an attempt to build on and become involved in ongoingresearch that has shown positive results in psychedelics helping with mental health issues rangingfrom addiction to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The immediate goal of the bill is to help speed up thatresearch in hopes to lower suicide rates, especially among veterans, and provide health care professionals an additional treatment for a spectrum ofproblems, sponsors say.
"I thought about, as we move beyond this pandemic, how we can address the mental health crisis our state faces.With so many folks who are struggling right now, I think we need to think outside the box, we need to think creatively," Pae said.
If passed, the bill would allow clinical trials on psychedelics in relation to depression, anxiety, opioid use disorder and dementia, among others.
"These trials are going to be very much in controlled environments with folks who are overseeing it.We are going to be micro-dosing," Pae said.
While psychedelics are still a Schedule 1drug and federally illegal, the federal government has allowed states to conduct research on psychedelics, largely staying out of the way.
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During a House Public Health committee meeting, questions came up onthe intent of the bill and why the state needs to jump in when research is already happening elsewhere.
Rep. Logan Phillips, R-Mounds, who worked closely with Pae on the bill and made the presentation to the committee, responded that time is of the essence in trying to prevent suicide.
In the most recent available data from the National Center for Health Statistics, Oklahoma had 816 suicide deaths in 2019.Meaningforevery 100,000 peoplethere were just over 20 suicide deaths,eighth mostin the nation.
"By jumping into the field we can immediately start helping our people, and our veterans. And get these changes into our community at a much higher rate of speed," said Phillips, an Army veteran.
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"Most of the people I served with killed themselves after they came back, he said. This treatment could have helped my soldiers, my friends, my colleagues.So its a passion to me to make sure that we get this to where we are moving the needle quickly to actually help these people.
At the same time House Bill 3414gives room for researchers to work, it also lessens the penalty for those caught with psychedelics under 1.5 grams to a $400 fine. ButPae and Phillips said the bill is not meant to promote or allow growth and consumption outside of medical purposes.
"Early researchis already showing that this is a light switch, this is automatic treatment for PTSD (and)lowers suicidal thoughts," Phillips said.
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Much of the research being cited comes from the Johns Hopkins Center on Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, one of the only institutions of its kind in the world.
Over various studies conducted by the Johns Hopkins center, psychedelics have been shown to alleviate depression and reduce the urge to smoketobacco. One study found80% of participants lessened their smokingfrequency after the psychedelic trials.
A secondstudy reported that 80% of participants had fewer suicidal and depressive thoughts, andsomereportedovercoming a fear of death.
In 2020, Dr.Roland Griffiths, the Center's founding director and professor at John Hopkins,told Scientific American that psychedelics have helped researchers,peer into the basic neuroscience of how these drugs affect brain activity and worldview in a way that is ultimately very healthy.
In Oklahoma's Legislature, the idea of improving brain activity through psychedelics has robust support with 14co-sponsors standing with Pae's bill, including Democrats, Republicans and leadership in both chambers.
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Additionally, theOklahoma LegislativeMental Health Caucus is interested in thebill that would provide help to mental health institutions outside of typical infrastructureand program spending.
"We have to be creative in the ways that we approach this issue, and the ways that we approach care, and I'm willing, whether it's Johns Hopkins or any other research university, to support those endeavors, even though, you know, we might have a certain reaction,"said Rep. Merleyn Bell, D-Norman, co-chair of the Caucus.
That reaction, stemming from a 1960s' counterculture understanding of psychedelic drugs, may leave some asking questions.
ButBell thinksthe idea of working with psychedelics is not uncommon compared to recent decisionsmade by Oklahomans.
"It reminds me very much of the conversation that we had around medical marijuana not too many years ago, and we've seen the benefits of that not just economically but for the health of our citizens,"she said.
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For Pae, the intention is not to create an entirely new industry or allowmushroom farms to sprout up across the Sooner State.
"Honestly, I haven't really thought that farbecause I want to get this outof the session. I want to see where the research takes us in the bill," he said.
Pae expects the legislation willbe heard on the floor as early as this week or next week and, if passed, SenateAssistant Majority Floor LeaderLonniePaxton, R-Tuttle,is slated to take up the bill asprincipal author in the upper chamber.
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If passed, the research conducted under the bill's purview would result in a report given to the Legislature by 2025.
"Withthe results, we want to see how it can be done in a medically safe way for folks who really have these types of mental health challenges," Pae said.
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