Aug 22, 2022 - News

Hallucinogenic mushrooms offer Washingtonians relief

Photo: Daniel Schäfer/picture alliance via Getty Images

Magic mushrooms have been decriminalized in D.C. for a little more than a year, and for many 'shroom users, using the hallucinogen is life as usual.

Why it matters: Hallucinogen use in the U.S. has increased among adults in the last two decades, Axios' Sareen Habeshian reports.

In 2019, over 5.5 million people in the U.S. used hallucinogens, which are a broad range of psychoactive drugs, including psychedelics such as LSD.

  • That's an increase from 1.7% of the population (12 years and older) in 2002 to 2.2% in 2019.

Catch up quick: In 2020, three-fourths of Washingtonians voted to make psilocybin mushrooms the lowest priority of D.C. law enforcement, essentially decriminalizing them.

  • The ballot initiative was thanks to a Northeast mom who has used 'shrooms to manage chronic pain since her second pregnancy, she told Washingtonian.

In D.C., some psychedelics are sold at I-71 stores, or stores that gift marijuana with the purchase of another item — a loophole to the city's marijuana laws that allow people to own small amounts of marijuana but not buy or sell.

What they’re saying: People who spoke with Axios, many of whom requested anonymity to protect their professional reputations, say they use 'shrooms to alleviate anxiety and stress.

For Hayden Gise, a 22-year-old in Woodley Park, using 'shrooms every couple of months helps her get out of her own head.

  • Friends who use 'shrooms “were able to see their lives from an outside perspective,” which encouraged Gise to try too, she says.
  • Gise is able to purchase 'shrooms in chocolate bar format from marijuana gifting delivery services and says her experience using “isn’t like Woodstock,” preferring 1-2 grams or only half of a chocolate bar at a time.

Shane Sullivan — who works for the harm reduction organization HIPS — sees 'shrooms as a way to achieve spirituality, and as a harm reduction tool. Like cannabis, Sullivan says that 'shrooms can provide a “tolerance break” from using other, harder drugs.

  • For Sullivan, the experience through microdosing 'shrooms is one of euphoria that relieves depression.

Yes, but: Sullivan says they have had bad experiences using 'shrooms before, describing one trip where they became paranoid while in public that they’d be interrogated by police.

  • But decriminalization, they say, had helped alleviate that fear and led to more positive experiences.

The big picture: MDMA, psilocybin, and LSD — combined with psychotherapy — have shown promise for treating a range of addictions and mental health disorders, Axios' Alison Snyder writes.

  • The Food and Drug Administration granted breakthrough therapy status to MDMA and psilocybin, signaling a shift in the potential for incorporating psychedelics into the existing health care infrastructure.
  • More states are also passing laws to allow research or decriminalize its use.

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