• January 28, 2021

Oregon’s Answer to Mental Health Problems? Psilocybin – or Psychedelic Mushroom – Therapy

 Oregon’s Answer to Mental Health Problems? Psilocybin – or Psychedelic Mushroom – Therapy

Psilocybin – or shrooms – are now being used for mental health therapy. Photo by Lizzy Oakley (Photagraphy)

Oregon might become the first state to sanction psilocybin – i.e. “magic mushrooms” – for mental health treatment. 

Thanks to Ballot Measure 109, Oregonian mental health patients could soon have legal access to psilocybin therapy. Patients suffering from conditions like depression or anxiety would be allowed to seek treatment at tightly regulated shroom service centers. 

Unless the measure’s opponents get their way, that is. The Oregon Psychiatric Physician Association and American Psychiatric Association are urging state officials to block Measure 109 from appearing on the ballot in November.

In a letter to Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno, Dr. Paul Levin, American Psychiatric Association CEO and medical director, argued that not enough research has been done on psilocybin to treat patients. He pointed out that even though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last year gave psilocybin a “breakthrough therapy” designation, they only did so for major depressive disorder. Advocates of the measure, meanwhile, promote the drug’s use for a wider array of conditions. 

“As medical experts in psychiatric care, we are concerned about determining medical treatment by ballot initiative,” Dr. Saul Levin proclaimed. “Such treatment should be evidence-based and determined solely by professional standards of care. Science does not yet indicate that psilocybin is a safe medical treatment for mental health conditions. While the FDA has granted psilocybin breakthrough therapy status, this does not establish the safety and efficacy of this treatment, it merely establishes the process by which to further study the treatment.”

The Oregon Psychiatric Physician Association struck a similar tone, arguing that there isn’t enough evidence to justify treating patients with psilocybin. 

“No chemical or medical treatment we use would ever be used to treat all the psychiatric conditions like they’re claiming,” argued Dr. Nicole Cirino, the organization’s president and a psychiatrist, physician and Oregon Health & Science University associate professor. “The disparity between the amount of data we have and the widespread publicity about the safety and effectiveness of this substance is what makes it unsafe.”

While these significant psychiatric organizations oppose Measure 109, its proponents remain adamant that psilocybin therapy is safe.

“I think the science on this is rock solid, it’s been studied for over 40 years by some of the preeminent institutions in the country,” contended Oregon state Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward; a Democrat and family physician. “It is 100% true that there are research trials still going on. It is also true that we can have some incredible opportunities in Oregon to show how this can be done safely.”

Hayward also noted that Oregon is fighting a mental health crisis and in need of cutting-edge new treatments like psilocybin. She also pointed out that the Oregon Health Authority would take two years to develop a training and licensing program — and implement strict safety regulations. 

 “We need every tool we can get in our toolbox,” she stated. “It will take at least two years to set it up properly. And that is the intent, to set it up properly, ensure practitioners are trained well and that there are proper safeguards in place. This is going to be very, very thorough and deliberate.”

Back in June, Portland-area therapists Tom and Sherri Eckert announced they gathered more than 130,000 signatures, which solidified measure 109’s slot on the Nov. 3 ballot. 

Their “Yes on 109” campaign has raked in nearly $73,000 in donations for the effort, while the ballot measure has no funded opposition.

Dylan Croll

Dylan Croll is a freelance writer based in California. In the past, he’s worked at the Laslo Congressional Bureau, as a CollegeFix Fellow at The Weekly Standard, Norwood News, and in public relations. He can be found on Twitter at @CrollonPatrol

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