Indiana lawmakers hear about potential mental health benefits of psilocybin

Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 6:40 PM EDT
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INDIANAPOLIS (WNDU) - How far is Indiana willing to go to address the mental health problems of its residents?

State lawmakers on an interim study committee Wednesday were encouraged to push the envelope by allowing the use of psilocybin to treat certain mental health conditions.

Psilocybin is a psychedelic compound found in “magic mushrooms” and has hallucinogenic effects.

“We’re really in need of solutions. We’ve got treatment options that people have. Some of them work some of the time. We heard about some of those options, but frankly, we all know people who are struggling with mental health,” said Ben Unger, director of psilocybin policy for a New Approach. “Psilocybin has been recognized by the FDA as a breakthrough therapy which is a designation that says psilocybin, in the clinical studies, has proven to be effective where other therapies have failed. The idea of having a breakthrough therapy that no one has access to is pretty frustrating.”

Ranji Varghese, M.D. has conducted nine psilocybin treatments in Minnesota. He says each patient was first diagnosed with a serious mental condition and referred to a therapist. Each psilocybin session lasts eight hours and is monitored by two therapists. The psilocybin is administered by capsule—not by mushroom.

“The therapists are not directing to do anything,” Varghese said. “They’re allowing the medicine to be a catalyst to perhaps uncover conscious material, maybe repressed material that people don’t want to face in real everyday life. Stuck ways of thinking, stuck ways of behaviors, that under the influence of this medicine by its mechanism, sort of filters to the top.”

The committee has one more meeting in October before it issues its final report.

So far, Oregon and Colorado have authorized the use of psilocybin therapy in certain circumstances.