Psychedelics have undergone a radical shift in public perception. Until recently, these compounds were viewed by many as an illicit leftover of the counterculture of the 60’s and 70’s. Promising clinical trials, documentaries like Fantastic Fungi, and books like How To Change Your Mind have led many to stop and reconsider their views. Compelling research from prestigious institutions such as John Hopkins University and NYU on the use of psilocybin/psilocin (the active ingredient in ‘shrooms) to treat substance use disorder, depression, and other mental health conditions has led many ‘psychedelically naive’ individuals to consider these compounds as a viable option.
If you find yourself in this position, before pursuing psychedelic assisted therapy, it is important to know the ‘where, when, what, who, why and how’ of access.
WHERE and WHEN did it become legal to take psychedelic substances?
Decriminalization of psilocybe mushrooms began in Denver in 2019. Several other cities and counties followed suit including Oakland, Ann Arbor, Seattle, Cambridge, North Hampton (MA) and Arcata (CA). Oregon, Colorado, and the District of Columbia have passed legislation decriminalizing the use and possession of psilocybin/psilocin containing mushrooms. Colorado passed Proposition 122 or The Natural Medicine Health Act in November of 2022 which decriminalized the personal cultivation, possession, consumption and ‘sharing’ of several natural psychedelic compounds starting January 4th, 2023. An Advisory Board was established in January 2023 which will help the state to develop a legal framework for licensing “healing centers” for clinical use starting in 2024.
WHAT psychedelics have been decriminalized or legalized for mental health purposes?
Colorado is easing into PAT with psilocybin. In 2026, the state’s Advisory Board and other involved bodies may expand the legalization to include ibogaine, non-peyote mescaline, and DMT. Each of these compounds have potential therapeutic effects based on traditional use and emerging research.
Oregon has only approved the use of psilocybe mushrooms for therapeutic purposes but has decriminalized multiple substances for personal use. Although treatment is currently legal, access has been difficult as there are not enough providers or centers to meet the demand.
WHO can take legal/decriminalized psychedelics and WHO can facilitate their use?
In both Colorado and Oregon, anyone 21 years of age or over can possess, cultivate, and consume the substances currently covered by these laws. Anyone under the age of 21 possessing, cultivating, or ingesting these substances could face fines or penalties. In Colorado, anyone can share and facilitate the use of these substances in a personal, communal, traditional, or ritualistic manner if they are not selling the psychedelic compounds or giving them to a minor.
In Oregon, psilocybin assisted therapy is only permitted in licensed service centers supervised by a state-certified facilitator. These trained individuals may come from a variety of professional backgrounds. Sales will be limited to licensed facilities in both Oregon and Colorado.
WHY legalize psychedelics for mental health?
America has been suffering for many years from a mental health crisis. There are not enough providers to meet the overwhelming need and current treatment options have limited efficacy. Early trials have shown several psychedelic compounds to be dramatically more effective than existing pharmaceuticals. Psilocybin therapy often produces long lasting results with just one to thee treatments. “Magic Mushrooms” have shown the most promise in both safety and efficacy. This natural medicine has even been shown to even be effective in treatment resistant populations such as the terminally ill, veterans with PTSD, and individuals with substance use disorders.
Here are just a few of the remarkable studies: 1. Psilocybin is more effective than escitalopram (Lexapro, an SSRI) at treating depression 2. Psilocybin Assisted Therapy is able to improve depressive symptoms for at least 12 months and adverse events are rare 3. Clinical psychedelic treatment reduces PTSD symptoms and Alcohol Use Disorder in Veterans 4. Multiple studies have shown a decrease in suicidal behavior for at least six months after psychedelic treatment. 5. Individuals experiencing Cannabis Use Disorder and Opioid Use Disorder were able to significantly reduce their dependency after a psychedelic experience
HOW should I access psychedelic assisted therapy?
In the current environment, the care delivered will be highly varied and difficult to know what you will get. The psychedelic community has traditionally functioned based on word of mouth referrals. Finding a recommendation for a trusted guide is a good place to start until legal regulated clinical care is widely available and accessible.
Ten questions to ask:
1. Does the facilitator offer at least one preparation session?
2. Will the administration session take place in a safe and comfortable “set and setting”?
3. Does the facilitator insist upon at least one “integration session” after the experience?
4. What is the facilitator’s background in mental health and how long have they worked with psychedelic compounds?
5. Where does the facilitator acquire their natural medicine?
6. What is the cost of care and what is included?
7. Do I feel personally comfortable with the facilitator?
8. Am I taking any psychiatric medications which could interact with a psychedelic compound?
9. Are any aspects of accessing this care in violation of my local laws?
10. What are my employer’s rules regarding the use of these compounds?
Seek out an experienced and informed professional to consult before taking psychedelic medicines personally or in an organized setting. Not everyone is a good fit for psychedelic therapy and any facilitator should be able to identify risk factors. Psychedelics can set the stage for and facilitate healing, but not guarantee it. These medicines are a catalyst for change. The intention, set, setting, and guide help to determine the therapeutic effect. The psychedelic experience is simply the beginning of the process. The benefits of these compounds can last for days, weeks, and even months. This period of time, often referred to as “integration or reintegration”, is as important and life changing as the journey itself.
Naturopathic Doctors are trained in physical health, mental health, conventional and natural medicine. Reach out to your local ND for more information and to see if psychedelic therapy is a safe and appropriate option for you.
By: Dr. Ryan Phillips, ND, MPH, BCB, CHES | McWhorter Chiropractic & Neurological Rehabilitation
From pain management to concussion rehabilitation, McWhorter CNR is the go-to source for cutting-edge, drug-free chiropractic and neurological treatment in the Denver metro area. We intersect with clients at all stages of performance and recovery with innovative tools to help them feel happier, healthier, and pain-free.