Doctors Urge Access to Psychedelic Therapies in New Mexico

SANTA FE, N.M. — Physicians and researchers are urging New Mexico legislators to allow the use of psychedelic mushrooms in mental health therapy aimed at overcoming depression, anxiety, psychological trauma and alcoholism.

On Tuesday, a legislative panel heard from advocates for a broadening of the medical and research benefits provided by psilocybin (the psychedelic active component in some mushrooms).

Oregon has been the only state that legalizes the therapeutic use psilocybin.

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Studies have shown that psilocybin may be effective in treating major depression and mental suffering for terminally ill patients. It can also be used to treat substance abuse, such as alcoholism. There are low chances of overdose or addiction under medical supervision.

Lawrence Leeman is a University of New Mexico medicine professor who urged legislators not to wait for federal decriminalization.

Leeman, along with other advocates, discussed emerging protocols for psilocybin. These included six-hour sessions under supervision and lengthy discussions regarding the experiences in counseling. Leeman warned lawmakers that illicit underground experiments are being carried out in the public interest without any safeguards.

“I do think there is a lot of promise from these medications,” said Leeman, who also directs a program providing prenatal and maternity care to women with substance abuse problems. “If this does go ahead, let’s do this really safely, let’s make sure we have people who are well trained (to administer the psychedelics) … Let’s make sure that people have counselors to see afterward.”

Uncertain whether New Mexico lawmakers would consider legislation to legalize the medical use psychedelics. These drugs are currently illegal under federal law. It convenes in January 2023 at its next regularly scheduled session under the Democratic-led Legislature.

In states like Oklahoma, Connecticut, Texas and Utah, Democrats as well as Republicans, the study of psychedelics has gained ground. Also, in Washington, Denver and Ann Arbor, Michigan as well as Cambridge, Massachusetts and Oakland in California have decriminalized psilocybin.

Veteran military personnel are helping convince legislators in many states to look into psychedelic mushrooms as a therapeutic option for treating post-traumatic stress.

Current law in New Mexico allows for psilocybin assisted therapy only through clinical trials.

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Gerald Valentine, Yale University psychiatrist said this leaves out those with severe illnesses and low incomes. According to Valentine, the University of New Mexico has been expanding its expertise with psychedelics-based treatments and Santa Fe is a place where people can find support. Santa Fe is known for being a hub of healing and art.

“These questions are starting to be answered about who might benefit from this therapy,” Valentine said. “I just feel very fortunate to be in a position to really bring this forth into real world situations.”

LSD, mescaline and psilocybin are some of the most well-known psychedelics. In many indigenous cultures, plant-based psychedelics are used for centuries.

One New Mexico church uses hallucinogenic Amazon ayahuasca as a sacrament. A 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision ensured access to ayahuasca imports for a temple on the outskirts of Santa Fe affiliated with the Brazil-based Centro Espìrita Beneficiente União do Vegetal.

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