Tori Armbrust grows magic mushrooms. But it doesn’t do it secretly or surreptitiously, but commercially, because it’s legal in Oregon.
,[En otros lugares] I’ll be in trouble,” laughs Armbrust, clutching a 250-gram bag of mushrooms.
The American received the first license to grow mushrooms in Oregon, where their consumption has been curtailed since January 1.
Magic mushrooms – nicknamed “the flesh of the gods” by the Aztecs – have been associated with recreational use in the American counterculture.
But psilocybin, its active principle, is being studied as a potential tool for treating severe depression, addictions or post-traumatic stress.
Oregon, in the northern United States, has become a leading state in defying a federal law criminalizing its consumption and promoting a project to open specialized treatment centers.
Magic mushrooms can be consumed by people over the age of 21 without a prescription, but only under the supervision of a certified supervisor.
The effect lasts for about six hours and should be followed by at least one session with that supervisor.
– “Why not?” ,
That new profession, which requires 160 hours of training, attracts mental health workers like Tyler Case.
The 44-year-old doctor, paid around $10,000 to train, hopes to offer it as an option for patients with personality disorders believed to be incurable.
“It’s a tool that can help people … who haven’t found help anywhere else,” Case told AFP.
“We use powerful psychoactive drugs all the time, we do things that change the way the brain works. Why not try it too?”
Scientists study how psilocybin works, and little is known about its long-term use.
But research suggests that this substance, combined with psychedelics such as LSD or MDMA, enhances neural connections and allows the brain to reform, generating new behaviors to combat long-term problems.
Tobias Shea, a US Army veteran, turned to this remedy to treat deep depression and crippling anxiety.
Shea, now 41, served two tours in Afghanistan, where he lost allies.
He tried psychotherapy and antidepressants. ,[Pero] They weren’t effective,” he says.
In 2011 he tried hallucinogenic mushrooms, and repeated the treatment in 2013.
“In both sessions I experienced visual hallucinations that resembled a colored prism, like a rainbow that covered everything around,” says the jiu-jitsu coach.
“Emotionally, I felt overwhelming joy, and also an overwhelming sense of fascination with the vastness and complexity of the universe.”
“I unpacked the terrible stuff in my head,” Shea said of the treatment that further taught him that his “traumatic experience” in war didn’t have to define his life.
– Ethical issues –
Along with legalization, Oregon also wants to encourage transparent practice and prevent potential abuses of power by self-described gurus or other figures operating in the industry.
An important factor is the “legal responsibility of the professionals and centers who follow the practice,” says Elizabeth Nielsen, psychologist and founder of Fluence, one of the certified companies for training supervisors.
Psilocybin use is permitted in other countries, but Nielsen stressed that what’s new about Oregon’s legal framework is that it makes the industry “a regulated environment.”
Most training sessions for supervisors address patients’ “extreme vulnerability” when they are on mushrooms, Nielsen explains.
They are taught to intervene as little as possible, and must sign an ethics contract that defines what parts of their patients’ bodies they may touch when they are having a “bad trip.”
Reassuring gestures such as shaking hands or taking them by the shoulders should be elaborated on before the session.
Oregon’s first Magic Mushroom Treatment Center just opened in Eugene.
However, their sessions cost $3,500 and some question the feasibility of the project, which has prompted states such as New York and California to study similar initiatives.
“You can farm [hongos] for $40,” says a mushroom farm owner who prefers to remain anonymous.
“I think it’s mainly for tourists.”
However, for Tory Armbrust, it is a matter of principle: “Nature cannot be criminalized.”