Friday, December 1, 2023

Psilocybin in Mexico: personal experiences and therapeutic insights

In recent years, psilocybin, a naturally occurring psychedelic compound found in so-called “magic mushrooms,” has gained significant attention worldwide for its potential therapeutic applications. Mexico, with its rich history and cultural ties to psychedelic or hallucinogenic substances, has also witnessed a growing interest in exploring the therapeutic benefits of psilocybin.

Johns Hopkins Medicine describes psilocybin as a compound found in hallucinogenic mushrooms known to cause profound alterations of consciousness and visual and auditory hallucinations. In 2016, researchers at Johns Hopkins made significant strides by discovering that psilocybin, when combined with psychological support, reduced existential anxiety and depression in individuals with a potentially life-threatening cancer diagnosis.

Ana, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy, embarked on her first psilocybin microdosing therapy in San Francisco, she tells me in an interview in Mexico City. Intrigued by the potential benefits — including overcoming depression and anxiety and enhancing creativity — she decided to “open her mind” and give the treatment a try.

Ana’s initial intention was to generally evaluate the effects of psilocybin on her well-being. She shares that her journey with psilocybin microdosing was highly personal. Her treatment spanned 90 days, during which she followed a specific dosage regimen. While individual experiences may vary, Ana emphasizes the importance of clear intentions and focus while consuming psilocybin. It is not unusual for some individuals to initially experience heightened emotions, including sadness and despair, before reaching a positive state.

Ana’s motivations for exploring psilocybin microdosing then extended beyond seeking inner peace. In subsequent treatments in Mexico, she aimed to awaken her creativity for a professional project. The results were gratifying, “with heightened concentration and a surge of creative ideas”, she says. In another instance, Ana utilized psilocybin to address her depression after discontinuing pharmaceutical medications. “The treatment improved my mood, bringing about a sense of enthusiasm and a reduced desire for caffeine and alcohol, which I was consuming all day long”.

A 2021 study conducted on 59 patients with major depression compared the efficacy of the antidepressant escitalopram (Lexapro) with psilocybin. The study revealed that just two doses of psilocybin appeared to be at least as effective as daily escitalopram pills when administered alongside psychological therapy. Patients receiving psilocybin experienced even greater improvement, with double the number achieving remission compared to the antidepressant group. While researchers consider these findings encouraging, they emphasize the importance of further research to understand the role of psilocybin as a therapy for depression. It is strongly advised not to self medicate with psilocybin, as professional psychological therapy is an integral part of the treatment process.

As scientific research continues to shed light on the medicinal properties of psilocybin, the legal status of this substance has become a subject of interest. In Mexico, the legal landscape surrounding psilocybin has undergone significant changes in recent years. Psilocybin mushrooms are classified as a controlled substance here, making it illegal to possess, cultivate, or consume them. However, in April 2021, the Supreme Court of Mexico ruled in favor of an amparo (a Mexican legal protection) allowing a group of individuals to use psilocybin for therapeutic purposes. This landmark decision represented a significant shift in the country’s approach to psychedelic substances, and paved the way for further exploration of psilocybin’s medical potential.

While the Supreme Court’s ruling in Mexico marked a groundbreaking step, it is important to note that it currently applies only to the specific individuals involved in the case. However, it set a precedent and opens the door for others to seek similar legal protections. Advocates are now working toward comprehensive drug policy reform that includes broader access to psilocybin for therapeutic purposes. Efforts are underway to foster dialogue with policymakers and promote evidence-based discussions around the benefits and risks associated with psilocybin-assisted therapies.

Mexico is not alone in exploring the therapeutic applications of psilocybin. Several countries around the world have recognized its potential and have implemented legal frameworks to facilitate its medical use. One notable example is the United States, where several cities — such as Denver, Colorado, and Oakland, California — have decriminalized psilocybin. In addition, in 2020, the state of Oregon passed Measure 109, allowing licensed facilities to administer psilocybin therapy under controlled conditions. This represents a significant milestone in the medical acceptance of psilocybin within the United States.

Canada has granted exemptions for patients with terminal illnesses to access psilocybin therapy, recognizing its potential to alleviate end-of-life distress. Brazil has a longstanding tradition of using ayahuasca, a brew that often contains DMT, another hallucinogenic  compound, in religious ceremonies. The country has recognized the cultural and spiritual significance of these substances, which has opened doors for broader discussions of their potential therapeutic value.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal or medical advice. Individuals should always consult with qualified professionals regarding the use of psilocybin or any other substance for medical purposes, taking into account the applicable laws and regulations of their jurisdiction.

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