This is part 2 of a recurring series on psychedelic medicine use. Read part 1 here.
In a small apartment in Southern Utah, the medicine woman, Mary (not her real name), laid out the sacrament: a small handful of dried psilocybin mushrooms. Her client came that day for help in treating post-traumatic stress disorder, which resulted after several sexual assaults by her ex-husband.
“I estimate 80% of my clients have had childhood sexual trauma,” Mary said. In anticipation of creating a life-altering experience, her client spent two weeks preparing for the ceremony. “I give them homework before they work with me,” Mary said. “They do yoga and breathwork every day until the appointment and I check in on them every day.”
In addition to preparing their minds for the work, Mary encourages her clients to adhere to a diet designed to align their bodies to the medicine. “I suggest a parasite detox to remove acidosis from the body,” Mary said. “ They eat a lot of fruit and vegetables. No meat, dairy, alcohol, or processed sugars. And they should drink a gallon of water every day.”
After setting an intention for the ceremony, Mary’s client ate a small handful of dried mushrooms. After about 30 minutes her pattern of breathing deepened and she began yawning. Over the next several hours, Mary emotionally supported her on the journey.
“I help them see the patterns of abuse that exist in their abusers,” Mary later said. “They see their abusers as abused children themselves. Then they sit and cry and release the trauma they’ve been holding onto.”
Toward the end of an emotional session, the client sat up and said, “I helped my abuser when he was a child and told him it was OK. I see what he went through– and it’s not his fault,” she commented. “There were a lot of tears, but a lot of joy, too. I’m pure. My sex is pure.”
This was a more or less typical client interaction for Mary, who asked not to be identified on the record for fear of legal ramifications.
Psilocybin (or ‘magic’) mushrooms contain psilocybin and psilocin, which are responsible for creating a universe-expanding experience when ingested. They work as direct stimulators of the serotonin system. The experience is often called ‘ineffable,’ in that words don’t exist to adequately describe the experience– and that may be the way in which they can treat depression and other mood disorders. It opens people to a new world of possibilities.
Because they grow in manure, the mushrooms are abundant and cheap. This allows access to almost anybody who wants them. However, the mushrooms are classified as a Schedule 1 drug by the DEA. Cultivation and distribution could result in felony prosecutions.
The generally accepted path to psilocybin legalization runs through the federal government– and the Food and Drug Administration. To allow more access to the general population, pharmaceutical companies are rushing to be the first to complete FDA-approved studies of psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) for use in treating mental health disorders. These multi-million dollar ventures are led by a mixture of non-profit and for-profit corporations, such as the Usona Institute and Compass Pathways, and eventual approval of psilocybin by the FDA is expected in the next 5 years.
The goal of these companies is to create a robust network of doctors, therapists, and other practitioners who can provide psilocybin experiences legally and with appropriate training.
Until then, Mary and other underground practitioners like her will continue healing their clients, despite the potentially catastrophic consequences.
“I’ve barely ventured outside friend circles,” she said. “Clients contact me first, but I’m still scared of getting caught.”
And so the work continues.