At a woodsy retreat center in Oregon, some 30 men and women are seated or lying down, masks covering their eyes and listening to serene music. They're among the first crop of students being trained on how to accompany patients tripping on psilocybin, as Oregon prepares to become the first US state to offer controlled use of the psychedelic mushroom to the public, per the AP. Oregon voters approved Ballot Measure 109 on psilocybin by an 11% margin in 2020. The program is expected to be available to the public in mid- or late-2023. InnerTrek, a Portland company, is now training around 100 students, in three groups, to be licensed "facilitators" who will create a safe space for dosing sessions and be a reassuring, but nonintrusive, presence.
Some classes in the six-month, $7,900 course are online, but others are in person, held near Portland in a building resembling a mountain lodge with Tibetan prayer flags flapping in the breeze nearby. Because psilocybin use is still illegal, the only mushrooms at the training center are the shiitake ones served in the miso soup at lunch. Trainer Gina Gratza told the students that the space, or "container," for a dosing session at a licensed center should include a couch or mats for clients to sit or lie on, an eye mask, comfort items like a blanket and stuffed animals, a sketch pad, pencils, and a bucket for vomiting. A session typically lasts at least six hours. Music is also an important part of the experience and should be available, from speakers or on headphones.
Tom Eckert, the architect of Ballot Measure 109 and InnerTrek's program director, said it's not about people getting "high" for the sake of it, but to use psilocybin to improve lives. Researchers believe psilocybin changes the way the brain organizes itself, permitting a user to adopt new attitudes more easily and help overcome depression, PTSD, and other issues. The Oregon Psychiatric Physicians Association and the American Psychiatric Association opposed Measure 109, saying it's "unsafe and makes misleading promises to those Oregonians who are struggling with mental illness." You don't need to be a medical professional to get a facilitator license, they pointed out. Eckert, though, said the status quo isn't working. "We need a revolution in mental health care," he noted.
The program is also charting a potential course for other states. In November, Colorado voters also passed a ballot measure allowing regulated use of "magic mushrooms" starting in 2024. On Dec. 16, California state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco introduced a bill to legalize psilocybin and other psychedelic substances. Oregon is pioneering the regulated use of psychedelic mushrooms in the US, but psilocybin, peyote, and other hallucinogenic substances have been used by the native peoples of Mexico and Central America to induce altered states of consciousness in healing rituals and religious ceremonies since pre-Columbian times.
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