A lot of emerging research involving the mental health benefits of psilocybin has led to a push for legalization in certain areas across the United States. Psilocybin is the psychedelic compound found in magic mushrooms.
Alan Floyd, who loves playing ambient music on his guitar, was diagnosed with a terminal illness in 2006. Since that day, he and his doctors have been working to manage his pain.
"And during that process, I just noticed, you know, I was I was giving up and it was really, really tough and heavy depression had set in and anxiety and end-of-life anxiety," Floyd said.
Floyd says they tried 16 different antidepressants.
"None of them worked," Floyd said. "Four of them made me completely suicidal."
In 2017, a federal bill called "Right to Try" passed giving terminally ill patients like Floyd the ability to try MDMA, LSD or psilocybin mushrooms. He started micro-dosing psilocybin mushrooms in pill form.
"I haven't had a night terror since the second week I began microdosing," Floyd said. "There's a benefit."
We have agreed to use his pseudonym 'Alan Floyd' because he says he's been repeatedly disrupted by people wanting to buy his psilocybin illegally. However, he wants the world to know how much it has improved his mental health.
"I'm in complete acceptance of what's going on," Floyd said. "I'm okay if I were to drop over in this chair right now and I'm okay with that."
While it has worked for him, he says psilocybin is not for everyone.
"I think everyone has to tread very carefully with legalization," Floyd said. "The last thing I would want to see on Earth is for the pharmaceutical companies to have a stranglehold on this medicine."
Cases like his have contributed to research about psychedelics and are leading to legalization efforts. Colorado State University social work professor Shannon Hugheshas been actively following research surrounding psilocybin and the push for legalization.
"60 to 80% of participants are reporting an immediate and substantial decrease in depression for end-of-life distress when you're facing a terminal illness," Hughes said. "I think it's going to have to be city by city, state by state, similar to cannabis laws."
Dr. Brian Pilecki is a clinical psychologist at Portland Psychotherapy in Oregon.
"Oregon was the first state to pass legislation that approves psilocybin services to the public," Dr. Pilecki sad.
He says about two dozen states are contemplating psilocybin legislation and the FDA is considering an approval process.
"So what some states are doing is trying to get ahead of that and make this type of treatment or make these substances available to the public now because we're really in such a mental health crisis in this country," Dr. Pilecki said.
Hughes says there are efforts to decriminalize and efforts to legalize. In places where the psychedelic mushrooms are legalized, she says a lot would need to be established.
"States or localities would develop licensing procedures for practitioners, would license healing centers," Hughes said. "They would license and regulate the production and distribution of psilocybin, both the naturally occurring fungus and the synthetic psilocybin that you would produce in a lab."
Hughes and Dr. Pilecki agree there is still a lot to be explored.
"It's early data, so we have to be careful and over-generalizing from it," Pilecki said.
So far they say the data regarding benefits to mental health has been pretty strong.
"Every day again is like when I was a little kid," Floyd said. "It's a wonder and it's just awesome to be alive."