4 May 2023
Our state faces an unprecedented addiction crisis as our friends and relatives from every walk of life numb their underlying traumas with substance use. In our communities, nearly three of our neighbors lose their lives to opioids and another two lose their lives to alcohol every single day, both among the highest rates in the country. While the situation can sometimes seem hopeless, treatments with psychedelics, such as psilocybin mushrooms, offer hope.
The Nevada Legislature is considering a bill, SB242, that will recognize the scientific literature on psilocybin mushrooms and convene a Psychedelic Medicines Working Group of state officials to craft an actionable plan for legalizing therapeutic use as an issue of public health. As a Nevada resident and retired police lieutenant who saw my brother struggle for years before losing his fight with addiction, I support this legislation.
This bill is a first step toward saving lives in our communities by helping destigmatize cutting-edge treatments for the underlying mental health challenges that drive addiction. Psilocybin mushrooms are a naturally occurring psychedelic that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified a breakthrough therapy for mental health treatment.
They have been proven to alleviate depression in over two decades of controlled clinical trials and by thousands of years of indigenous use. A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found one in two patients put major depression in remission after just two therapy sessions with psilocybin use — an effect nearly four times more effective than other medications for depression.
Passing this legislation will provide a forum for our state agencies, psychiatrists, law enforcement, researchers and veterans to come together to identify a path forward for psychedelic-assisted therapy programs in Nevada. The Psychedelic Medicines Working Group should also consider decriminalizing personal amounts as well to help remove the stigma that prevents patients from reviewing dosage and preparation protocols with their therapists and doctors.
Of the cities and jurisdictions that have decriminalized these naturally occurring fungi, none have seen any significant public health or safety issues. In fact, in the United States 60 years ago, psychedelics were being researched widely prior to President Richard Nixon’s War on Drugs, which wrongly placed this class of substances under Schedule 1 without any evidence to support that designation.
Fortunately, we have seen new research over the past decade that is helping to reduce the stigma associated with psychedelics. A peer-reviewed and controlled study of 44,000 Americans in the U.S. Journal of Psychopharmacology found that one dose of psilocybin mushrooms is associated with a 40 percent reduced risk of developing opioid use disorder. This finding was backed by a follow-up study that suggested an even stronger beneficial effect.
Psychedelics can also catalyze introspective experiences that can help people understand why they are drinking excessively, helping people chart a new course for their lives.
Since people struggling with substance use disorder are statistically more likely to get wrapped up in criminal behavior, these benefits for mental and behavioral health can have big impacts on public safety. And, for those who have already been arrested for a crime, psychedelics have been shown by a study of over 200,000 inmates to substantially reduce the likelihood of reoffending, particularly those who have a substance use problem. The bottom line is that people who can work through their traumas live happier, healthier and more productive lives.
Every Nevadan who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder or substance use disorder stands to benefit from the Psychedelic Medicines Working Group recommendations. This is particularly true for first responders, including law enforcement, who suffer traumatic stress at a rate five times higher than that of civilians. We owe it to these public servants to study and implement these alternative treatments so they have the choice to heal rather than just numb themselves to the daily traumas they experience on the job.
We owe it to ourselves to advance this conversation in Nevada. SB242 will make our communities safer by taking a step forward to understand how psychedelic treatments can alleviate the dual crises of mental health and substance use that destroy so many lives. While it may be too late for my brother and countless others in our communities, we still have a chance to make the right choice to honor their memory.
Diane Goldstein is a retired lieutenant who served with the Redondo Beach Police Department for two decades. She now lives in Las Vegas and serves as the executive director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership.
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