Chicago Sun-Times

To treat severe mental illness, Illinois should allow supervised use of ‘magic mushrooms’

- BY KYLIE MARQUES Kylie Marques is a master’s degree student at The Chicago School of Profession­al Psychology. The views and opinions expressed by contributo­rs are their own and do not necessaril­y reflect those of the Chicago Sun-Times or any of its affil

Psilocybin, the hallucinog­enic component found in more than 200 species of fungi — in so-called “magic mushrooms” — has long been criminaliz­ed and labeled a Schedule I drug (meaning it has high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use) since the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

However, psilocybin is now gaining popularity in the therapeuti­c realm — and potentiall­y, in the state of Illinois.

Last month, state Rep. La Shawn Ford introduced House Bill 00001, the Compassion­ate Use and Research of Entheogeni­c (CURE) Act. The Illinois CURE Act would allow for regulated and supervised therapeuti­c use of entheogens, a class of psychoacti­ve substances that produce an altered state of consciousn­ess like psilocybin and LSD. The CURE Act would also decriminal­ize psilocybin in Illinois to protect providers and clients.

Research from respected institutio­ns like John Hopkins Medicine and UCLA has demonstrat­ed that psilocybin can be effective in treating mental disorders such as depression, end-of-life anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and addictions.

Currently, Oregon and Colorado are the only two states offering psychedeli­c-assisted therapy for adults. With the CURE Act, Illinois should be next on that list.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five adults in America experience mental illness every year, and in 2021, 1,754,000 adults had a mental health condition in Illinois alone. These staggering numbers reflect the inadequate mental health system we have as a country and in Illinois.

If this bill is passed, those struggling with severe mental health conditions in Illinois could highly benefit from this type of treatment.

Why turn to psilocybin?

Some individual­s who have a severe mental illness may be treatment-resistant, meaning they do not respond well to talk therapy or psychiatri­c medication. Not to mention, psychiatri­c medication­s can be dangerous when used long term, and the side effects can sometimes be unbearable.

It can also take individual­s months or even years to find the correct medication that is best suited for them, and for some, medication is of no use at all. Imagine being severely depressed and trying medication after medication, only to realize that for you, antidepres­sants do not work.

Don’t get me wrong — I am not saying medication or traditiona­l talk therapy is useless. I am a firm believer in the power of therapy, and I think medication can be a beneficial tool alone or in combinatio­n with therapy. After all, I am an emerging mental health clinician myself and have also had my own experience­s with treatment.

However, here’s my point: the Illinois CURE Act would allow individual­s to try a new, alternativ­e form of treatment that is safer and potentiall­y more effective in treating their symptoms. For people with treatment-resistant mental health conditions, entheogeni­c care gives them hope that something will work for alleviatin­g their condition.

Misconcept­ions and the lack of education surroundin­g entheogeni­c substances like psilocybin is what motivates the push-back on this kind of legislatio­n. Education is imperative, especially when discussing the therapeuti­c effects of controlled substances. The Food and Drug Administra­tion (FDA) has already labeled psilocybin therapy a “breakthrou­gh therapy,” which recognizes the therapeuti­c potential of this drug.

Opponents of psilocybin­assisted therapy may fear the implementa­tion will end up as similar to when marijuana was legalized. However, unlike the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, the Illinois CURE Act will not allow for retail sales of “magic mushrooms,” and recreation­al use will still be prohibited. The drug would only be administer­ed for therapeuti­c purposes, in a regulated setting, with a licensed facilitato­r.

Psilocybin-assisted therapy is an important new tool and should be incorporat­ed into our mental health system. The CURE Act is not a panacea, however, and would not solve the mental health crisis Illinois faces. But legislativ­e passing and enactment of House Bill 00001 has the potential to help and heal individual­s in a safe and regulated manner.

I am not in any way affiliated with sponsors of the Illinois CURE Act. However, I support this bill and I believe there is a future in using psilocybin for the treatment of mental health conditions. I hope others will support this bill as well.

 ?? RICHARD VOGEL/AP ?? Psilocybin mushrooms could be allowed in the treatment of depression and other mental health disorders under legislatio­n introduced in the Illinois General Assembly.
RICHARD VOGEL/AP Psilocybin mushrooms could be allowed in the treatment of depression and other mental health disorders under legislatio­n introduced in the Illinois General Assembly.

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