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Utah Lawmaker Files Bill To Explore Therapeutic Use of Psychedelics |

Utah’s lawmaker introduced a bill that explores the possibility of psychedelic medications being used to treat severe mental conditions such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD. The legislation, House Bill 167, was introduced on Tuesday by Utah state Representative Brady Brammer, who noted that the measure “doesn’t legalize anything.”

“It asks our Huntsman Mental Health Institute and other experts in the field to review the science that’s out there, the research that’s out there, and make any recommendations that they have if they feel psychedelics can be safely administered through a prescription basis and under what circumstances,” Brammer said in a television news interview.

If passed, HB 167 would direct the state’s Health and Human Services Department to create a Mental Illness Psychotherapy Drug Task Force. The group would “study and make recommendations on drugs that may assist in treating mental illness,” according to the text of the legislation. It outlines the composition of the taskforce, which will include patients and researchers as well mental health professionals.

Although the bill does not specifically mention psychedelics or any particular drug, the task force would be authorized to “provide evidence-based recommendations on any psychotherapy drug that the task force determines may enhance psychotherapy when treating a mental illness.” The legislation would empower the task force to study the research into psychedelic drugs, which has shown the potential to treat serious mental health conditions.

“We need effective tools to treat mental illness,” Brammer said in a statement to local media. “If psychedelics can be helpful and safely administered, we need them in our toolbox.”

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Brammer’s bill is supported by groups that campaigned for Proposition 2, the 2018 ballot initiative that legalized medical marijuana in Utah. The Utah Patients Coalition’s medical director Kylee Shumway said that some psychedelics might be able help people with severe mental illnesses.

“We have higher rates of depression and anxiety than a lot of other states and even for people that are looking for help, there’s not enough psychiatrists; there’s not enough mental health professionals to help them,” said Shumway. “And a lot of the medications aren’t working.”

The potential for therapeutic effects of psychedelics such as MDMA, psilocybin and ketamine have been demonstrated, especially in the treatment of serious mental illnesses like anxiety, depression and addiction. The journal published research. JAMA PsychiatryIn 2020, a study showed that psilocybin assisted psychotherapy is an efficient and fast-acting treatment option for 24 people with major depression disorder. In 2016, a separate study found that patients with terminal cancer experienced significant and sustained reductions in anxiety and depression after receiving psilocybin therapy.

“It’s very promising,” Shumway exclaimed. “There are some huge studies that have just been finished recently on psilocybin that put it head to head against SSRIs which are antidepressants and psilocybin performed better across the board.”

“Utah has some of the finest researchers in the areas of psychiatry and neurosciences at Huntsman Mental Health Institute,” said Brammer. “This bill seeks to leverage that expertise, along with other experts grappling with mental illness, to review the research results, and if appropriate, make recommendations on how to safely administer these therapeutics under the care of qualified physicians.”

Steve Urquhart, a former Republican Utah state senator, also supports Brammer’s bill to explore the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs.

“Psychedelics changed my life,” he told local media. “It changed the way I see myself, the way I regard myself, and that allows me to see others and love others a lot more.”

Urquhart was the founder and leader of The Divine Assembly (a Utah church which encourages responsible, religious use of pisilocybin). 

“I’ve always been a bit of an activist at heart, and I decided I wanted to form a church where people can have these freedoms to worship with psychedelics,” Urquhart said. “I tell people, don’t get too lost on psychedelics; The Divine Assembly is about connection, and psychedelics can help with that.”

Urquhart feels that lawmakers in the states will be able to understand the careful approach HB 167 uses to investigate the potential benefits of psychedelics. They may even support it.

“Remember, this is Utah. Of course, we’re likely to take a slower approach to something like this,” he noted. “But on things like this, when the process runs, when it works, Utah can kind of come up with some magic. I’m optimistic about this.”

Brammer presented HB 167 to the Utah House of Representatives January 18. For consideration, the House Rules Committee has been asked to refer the bill.