Cannabis is practically mainstream. Could ‘mushrooms’ be next?

Updated: Feb. 6, 2020 at 4:25 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - As cannabis is more accepted as medicine, there is more openness at the state Capitol to study the therapeutic potential of another natural but illegal substance.

Lawmakers are eyeing psilosybin or “magic mushrooms."

The Bay area is known for underground clinics that offer illegal treatments with psilosybin, which is derived from mushrooms.

In Hawaii, there are clinics using ketamine, a legal psychedelic drug not related to mushrooms, which advocates say can help certain patients.

For almost two years, Kevin Martin has been getting ketamine infusion treatment for PTSD and depression.

"It's been like a spiritual epiphany the six times I've done this," he told Hawaii News Now.

Ketamine has a history as a street drug, but is used by anesthesiologists and now some psychiatrists like Dr. Tom Cook, who has a Honolulu clinic.

“There was a lot of drug assisted therapy at the time in the late 50′s and what we are seeing right now is a resurgence in that,” said Cook.

In 2011, Martin who was then an Army specialist survived three separate road side bombs in Afghanistan. He came home physically intact, but his mind permanently marred.

"I felt invincible that I was hitting these bombs over and over again and still having my limbs and everything to show for it, but I realized there was things going on like my memory was shot," said Martin.

"I could barely read. I was waking up every morning feeling hungover even though there was no alcohol there," he added.

He says traditional drug treatment wasn't helping until he found ketamine infusion.

While Martin's heart rate and blood pressure are constantly monitored, Dr. Cook gave him a small dose injection of ketamine.

A licensed clinical social worker sits nearby while calming music plays on his ear buds.

Within minutes, Martin's altered state is apparent.

"I'm being obliterated, obliterated from the bondage of my ego," said Martin after a deep breath.

He said this psychedelic drug treatment isn’t about seeing colors, it’s about being out of body, disassociation and letting go of the survivor’s guilt.

"This hits hard and it just did. Wow," said Martin.

Unlike ketamine, psilosybin has no legal use except for approved research.

The Hawaii Legislature is considering setting up a working group to look into the medicinal benefits of psilosybin and Cook believes there should be more studies in clinics like his ― where therapists are by the patient’s side.

“The experience can be very life changing and ecstatic or it can be horrifying. You really need the support,” he said.

Martin has taken mushrooms a handful of times. He says he went to a safe place in nature and he feels it has potential for people like him.

“It was very, very enlightening and very comforting. I was very connected to nature, the environment,” he said.

Not everyone is open to magic mushrooms as medicine.

The Maui Police Department says psilocybin is an illegal drug that can cause hallucinations, anxiety and panic and that studies into the drug as a medical treatment are still in its infancy.

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