Sunday, June 23, 2024

In a carpeted office suite, Alex Beck settled onto a mattress and, under the watch of a trained guide, began chomping through a handful of “Pumpkin Hillbilly” mushrooms. A Marine Corps veteran who was sexually assaulted during his time in the armed forces, Mr. Beck had long been searching unsuccessfully for a way to put those nightmarish years behind him. Now he was ready for a different kind of journey, a psychedelic trip through the nether regions of his own mind.

As he felt his thoughts starting to spin, his “facilitator,” Josh Goldstein, urged him to surrender and let the mushrooms guide him. “It’s like the idea of planting a seed and then letting it go,” he said.

Stigmatized in law and medicine for the past half-century, psychedelics are in the midst of a sudden revival, with a growing body of research suggesting that the mind-altering compounds could upend psychiatric care. Governments in several places have cautiously started to open access, and as Oregon voters approved a broad drug decriminalization plan in 2020, they also backed an initiative to allow the use of mushrooms as therapy. This summer, the state debuted a first-of-its-kind legal market for psilocybin mushrooms, more widely known as magic mushrooms.

Far from the days of illicit consumption in basements and vans, the program allows people to embark on a therapeutic trip, purchasing mushrooms produced by a state-approved grower and consuming them in a licensed facility under the guidance of a certified facilitator.

Mr. Beck, 30, was one of the first clients at a facility in the central Oregon city of Bend that began conducting sessions this summer in a building that on other days of the week offers chiropractic services. In his youth, Mr. Beck had experimented with psychedelics for recreation. But as he struggled with his lingering post-traumatic stress in adulthood, he learned about what seemed to be promising new research into plant-based psychedelics for mental health issues that did not respond to other treatments. He wondered if they could help him clear his head from the horrors of the past. “I’m trying to reset my brain to where I can look at life in a new way,” he said.

Plants and fungi with psychoactive properties have been used for thousands of years… [remaining content omitted]

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