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Missouri Bill Would Allow Therapeutic Psychedelic Use

Under a recently presented bill in Missouri, people with severe depression or post-traumatic Stress Disorder would be allowed to use natural psychoedelic drugs like pilocybin. Representative Tony Lovasco, the Missouri House’s newest member, introduced the bill, HB 2850.

HB 2850 would allow people suffering from treatment-resistant or terminal depression to be able access psychedelic medications made from plants or fungi. A summary of the legislation shows that the bill would apply to dimethyltryptamine and other psychedelic drugs such as ibogaine (except peyote), mescaline, mescaline, psilocybin and psilocyn. The bill permits patients to acquire natural psychedelic drugs and use them in a health care facility, their residence, or a primary caregiver’s home.

Elaine Brewer founder of Humble Warrior Wellness Center says the bill would offer people with mental illness an alternative to traditional care. As a military wife, she said that she faced extreme depression and anxiety over her husband’s safety, who served in Afghanistan. 

“I was constantly anxious that my family would be the next one to have that knock on the door,” Brewer told the Riverfront Times.

Brewer tried many treatments, including yoga, meditation and pharmaceuticals. But none of them provided relief. She then went on a Mexico wellness retreat, which included MDMA and psilocybin. She said that the effects were immediately felt.

“It was like 10 years of therapy in two days,” said Brewer.

However, legislators remain skeptical about the legislation. Many noted at a hearing that psilocybin was a federally-controlled Schedule 1 substance.

“To me, that’s just absurd,” Lovasco said. “When you’re looking at stuff that is clearly demonstrated not to be dangerous, there’s no reason not to let people give it a shot.”

Others stated they believed that further research would be necessary before the approval of therapeutic use for psychedelics.

“As a psychiatrist, I have grave concerns,” said Representative Lisa Thomas. “There are not enough studies, and even many of the studies that have been done in their conclusions acknowledge there’s not enough research, and we don’t know how these interact with other medications.”

Psychedelics Research Continues

However, research continues into the use of psychedelic substances. A team of scientists from Imperial College London and the University of California San Francisco published this week a study that suggests a mechanism through which psychedelic drug like psilocybin may be used to treat depression, and other mental conditions caused by fixed-thinking patterns.

“The effect seen with psilocybin is consistent across two studies, related to people getting better, and was not seen with a conventional antidepressant,” Robin Carhart-Harris, the study’s lead author, said in a statement from UCSF. “In previous studies we had seen a similar effect in the brain when people were scanned whilst on a psychedelic, but here we’re seeing it weeks after treatment for depression, which suggests a ‘carry over’ of the acute drug action.”

David Nutt is the head of Imperial Centre for Psychedelic Research and noted that psilocybin may be a promising new treatment option for those who haven’t made significant progress on other medications.

“For the first time we find that psilocybin works differently from conventional antidepressants—making the brain more flexible and fluid, and less entrenched in the negative thinking patterns associated with depression,” said Nutt. “This supports our initial predictions and confirms psilocybin could be a real alternative approach to depression treatments.”

Ginger Nicol is a Washington University researcher and a psychiatrist who told Missouri legislators that ongoing research may change the treatment of serious mental illnesses.

“If the results of the smaller studies that have been done carry through in our larger studies, then it will probably be a revolution in mental health and psychiatric pharmacology,” Nichols said.

Although HB 2850 is as it stands, the bill would not benefit patients with severe depression or PTSD and people with terminal illnesses. Patients could, however, petition Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services in order to be added conditions.

“The idea here is that you’ve got to start somewhere,” Lovasco responded. “We’re simply saying, ‘Look, if we did decriminalize it in certain quantities in certain conditions in certain circumstances, that opens the door to not only furthering this conversation, but hopefully getting some of that data that a lot of people are looking for.’”

The House Committee on Health and Mental referred the legislation to them, and they held two hearings on HB2850. The House has not yet scheduled any further actions on the bill.

“I don’t think it’s super likely to be signed into law this year as it’s a very new issue for Missouri,” said Lovasco. “We definitely gotta start the conversation and work towards something we can get consensus on.”