There’s a creative new treatment that has been shown to dramatically ease the suffering of people with a variety of mental health issues. It’s not a magic pill, but it is magic mushrooms (psilocybin). They’ve been used for 7,000 years for medicinal, wellness and religious purposes but, as the saying goes, everything old is new again, and their resurgence couldn’t come at a more important time.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, four times as many service members and veterans have died by suicide than have been killed in combat. Let that sink in. More than 30,000 service members and veterans have died by suicide since 9/11, compared to roughly 7,000 that have died in combat. This is an average of roughly 20 suicides per day. This is a fundamental failure by our government to adequately protect those who have committed their lives to defending the U.S.
But it isn’t just our service members who are experiencing PTSD and other serious mental health ailments; everyday people are suffering from depression, anxiety and various substance use disorders. Per data compiled by Mental Health America, an organization that commits to mental health awareness, roughly 20% of New Yorkers experience Any Mental Health Illness (AMI), which is defined as having a diagnosable mental, behavioral or emotional disorder. On top of that, nearly 8% of New Yorkers have reported having a substance use disorder in the past year, and 5.7% reported having an alcohol use disorder within the past year. The percentage of adults reporting serious thoughts of suicide in the past year is 4.58% — roughly 11.4 million Americans.
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In an effort to combat this pandemic of mental health ailments, we must think outside the box and come to the realization that there is no “one size fits all” solution. I have introduced legislation that allows trained professionals to prescribe psilocybin for use under supervised settings. The bill also creates a funding program to alleviate the costs for first responders, veterans and low-income individuals seeking this treatment.
Western medicine has recently seen a revival in the use of plant-based psychedelic treatments, and the Food & Drug Administration has granted psilocybin “breakthrough therapy status.” Several states are also recognizing the benefits of psilocybin and opening both medical and wellness options. According to a review conducted by the Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board in 2021, “high quality phase 1 and 2 clinical trials suggest that psilocybin is efficacious in reducing depression and anxiety, including in life-threatening conditions.”
A psilocybin bill can help us get to a place where we are not only easing people’s suffering, but we are seeing them thrive and prosper.
New York State Assemblyman Patrick Burke represents District 112.