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Decriminalizing psilocybin in Denver: the search for a solution to mental health

Photo By:wearechange.org


B. Smith, Contributing Writer

Colorado sure is looking like a nice place to retire right now.


In recent news, psychedelic drug advocates in Denver, Colorado received the green light to put an initiative before city voters to decriminalize psilocybin, commonly referred to as “magic mushrooms.” In May, the Denver Psilocybin Mushroom Decriminalization Initiative will present to voters an ordinance that would make possession of the drug legal for those over the age of 21. The proposed law would not legalize retail sales, however it would legalize growing the mushrooms, among other things. This will be the first time psilocybin decriminalization has come before U.S. voters.


Denver is laying the groundwork for an issue that is more often talked about than acted upon: the mental health crisis in America.


I understand the impact of this statement on this article. I’m sure that, upon seeing the headline, you assumed that a stoner got all excited over the possible decriminalization of magic mushrooms and chose to write about it. However, that is not the case. Decriminalization of psilocybin is the first major step that I have seen taken in American towards solving the mental health crisis that is so often talked about. Take it from me, I’ve been there and experienced it first hand.


Every single person has fallen victim to depression, some harder than others. Going into my sophomore year of college, I had only experienced a mild underlying depression. Somewhere along the line, my life took a tool for the worse, and I began to spiral into this deep thought process that began to control my life. I can confidently say that I have been lower than the depths of the ocean and that psilocybin played an unprecedented role in clearing my mind and putting me back on the right track.


Disclaimer: I am not advocating the use of psilocybin. I would never recommend it to someone simply because I have no understanding of their cognitive security. Ingesting psilocybin is not as scary or daunting as it’s made out to be, although it surely can be. One must be mentally prepared before beginning a “trip,” as it’s commonly referred.


My overall happiness and well-being is incredibly higher now than it has been for some time. I ate psilocybin mushrooms three times over the span of four months. Some trips were better than others, but in the year that followed I began to notice that the number of rough days for me had decreased. This past summer and current school year thus far I have felt genuinely happy. I have a much better understanding of responsibility and much higher motivation. I have become active in my hobbies and interests again and feel genuine excitement over dreams for my future.


Unfortunately, psilocybin research does not receive government funding, therefore it is very limited. However, a study conducted in 2016 entitled Johns Hopkins Study of Psilocybin in Cancer Patients showed that psilocybin produced substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer.


An excerpt from a summary of the research states “Participants, staff, and community observers rated participant moods, attitudes, and behaviors throughout the study. High-dose psilocybin produced large decreases in clinician- and self-rated measures of depressed mood and anxiety, along with increases in quality of life, life meaning, and optimism, and decreases in death anxiety. At 6-month follow-up, these changes were sustained, with about 80% of participants continuing to show clinically significant decreases in depressed mood and anxiety.”


With more government funded research, the positive effects of psilocybin on the mind will have more statistical support. The legalization or decriminalization of psilocybin is not the answer that solves the mental health crisis in America, but it sure is part of it.


Any questions or concerns regarding the content of this article can be addressed to editor@psu.edu.


Both the Personal Counseling office in Reed and Health and Wellness in the Carriage House are able to help you with any mental health experiences you may be having. Contact the offices for more information.