Inside the Push to Legalize Magic Mushrooms for Depression and PTSD

“IT WASN’T. The former corporate executive from Colorado retired in 2006 after an MRI revealed his spine was riddled with a dozen tumors called hemangiomas, which later spread to his brain. Todd was told he would die before the end of 2008.

Somehow, Todd has survived—he credits medical marijuana, which he now uses daily—but he is still considered terminal. “It could be tomorrow. It could be five years from now,” he says in a call.

However, the 54-year-old spent the past decade plagued by a host of mental health problems, including PTSD and treatment-resistant depression. He was suicidal and tormented by violent night terrors. Nothing, not even massive doses of Xanax or Valium, could temper his panic attacks or end-of-life anxiety.

That was about a year ago. Todd began taking homegrown psilocybin, the highly illegal alkaloid in so-called magic mushrooms. Known for prompting profound hallucinations, psilocybin was placed in the restrictive Schedule I category in 1970, meaning the US government recognizes no medical use for the drug and says that it carries a high risk of abuse.

Todd says there have been clear benefits from psilocybin with few side effects. He hasn’t had a single PTSD episode since he began taking it. His depression evaporated. The mushrooms even help ease the pain—agony that feels like being “shot in the back”—from the nerve-crushing tumors in his spine and skull.

Indeed, magic mushrooms are having a therapeutic moment. In North America, at least four organizations, each with unique strategies, are working to expand access to psilocybin for anyone with mental health issues, dying or not. These groups hope to undo decades of psilocybin prohibition by removing criminal penalties for possession or cultivation, or by providing access to psilocybin in a therapist’s offices, or both.

Read more at Wired

The Failing Battle Against Drug Production in Colombia

”Despite several strategies to eradicate domestic cocaine production, Colombia continues to struggle with the massive amount of drugs that are cultivated and manufactured within its borders. Government control measures include the arrest of major drug lords and the dismantling of their cartels, as well as the prosecution of corrupt politicians and police officers involved in the drug trade.

Colombia is a world leader in cocaine cultivation and a major heroin supplier to the world. Coca leaves, the key ingredient in cocaine production, are grown in Colombia’s Andes Mountains. This area has been the focus of crop eradication for decades.

From 2000 to 2005, the United States appropriated about $4.3 billion for the Andean Counter-Drug Initiative, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service. The funds were targeted to eradicate the coca and opium poppy plants used to produce the illicit drugs.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a World Health Organization affiliate, found in 2015 that the aerial pesticide spray glyphosate (also known as Roundup) exposed Colombian farmers and villagers to a possible carcinogenic. Consequently, the Colombian government banned its use after it had been on the market for nearly two decades.

The next strategy was to send government workers into remote mountainous areas where farmers cultivate cocaine and heroin ingredients and offer them crop substitution as a new solution. The goal was to entice farmers to replace their illicit crops with legitimate ones, such as fruits and vegetables.

The goal of the peace treaty was to end the epidemic of violence and formulate a definitive solution to Colombia’s drug problem. As part of the deal, Bogota promised to provide health and education services along with potable water in rebel lands. FARC members were also granted amnesty for their crimes.

However, the Insight Crime Foundation, which tracks organized criminal groups, estimates that as many as 2,800 FARC members rejected these peace efforts. They rearmed themselves, demonstrating the ineffectiveness of the treaty.

Read more at In Homeland Security