Could Psychedelics Be Missouri's Next Drug Frontier?

One GOP legislator hopes to pave a way for those with treatment-resistant illnesses to try psychedelics as a cure

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click to enlarge One Missouri lawmaker is hoping second time is the charm with a bill to legalize psilocybin for medicinal use. It could help those with treatment-resistant depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or terminal illness.
ILLUSTRATION BY TYLER GROSS
One Missouri lawmaker is hoping the second time is the charm with a bill to legalize psilocybin for medicinal use. It could help those with treatment-resistant depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or terminal illness.

State Representative Tony Lovasco (R-O’Fallon) hopes the second time's the charm in his quest to legalize psychedelics for medicinal use in Missouri.

Lovasco introduced a bill this legislative session that would allow adult patients with terminal or untreatable illnesses to try psilocybin and psilocin, the psychedelic compounds found in so-called magic mushrooms.

The bill is Lovasco’s latest attempt at psychedelic drug reform in Missouri. Last year, the legislator sponsored a broader bill that would have allowed eligible patients to try five different kinds of psychedelics, including mescaline and dimethyltryptamine, a.k.a. DMT.

But the bill flopped after a hearing with the Health and Mental Health Policy Committee, during which most committee members balked at the idea of legalizing psychedelics for any use.

Yet Lovasco remains hopeful his latest attempt at medicinal legalization will go further this year. This bill is a narrower version of his last, proposing that eligible patients be allowed to try only psilocybin and psilocin. Patients with treatment-resistant depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or terminal illnesses would be eligible.

“Between the narrowing of the bill and a few new members who’ve come in, some of them much more interested, I think we’ve got a much better shot,” Lovasco says.

Psilocybin and psilocin are illegal at the federal level (the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency considers the substances Schedule I drugs, with no accepted medical use), but a growing number of states are considering its medicinal uses. States such as Oregon and Colorado have loosened restrictions as a growing body of research suggests psychedelics can do much more than get someone high.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical School have published over 60 peer-reviewed studies on the effectiveness of psilocybin for treating mental illness. At Washington University in St. Louis, physicians are studying psilocybin’s efficacy for treating depression and addiction.

As evidence of psilocybin and psilocin's usefulness mounts, Lovasco says it’s “a basic freedom issue” to allow patients to try the drugs.

“We need to stay out of physicians' ways so they can do what’s best for their patients,” Lovasco says.

Lovasco’s proposal would allow physicians to administer psilocybin at health offices or residential care facilities. Any person could petition the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to add a qualifying facility or medical condition to the list.

Psychedelic-drug advocates like Elaine Brewer, founder of Humble Warrior Wellness Center, have traveled out of the country to try psychedelics. After a dose of MDMA at a health facility in Mexico, Brewer felt her chronic anxiety lift. It was like “10 years of therapy in two days,” Brewer tells the RFT.

Brewer, a military spouse, has been a staunch advocate for psychedelic treatment for veterans ever since.

“They’re not seeking psychedelics to get high,” Brewer says. “They’re seeking treatment to heal the wounds they carry from combat.”

Not having a regulated, legal means for such treatment is “not only neglectful,” Brewer says, “it’s dangerous."

“It’s causing desperate citizens to turn to unqualified, unvetted sources here in the U.S.,” Brewer adds. “There’s a lot of opportunists and ‘shamans’ who want to take advantage of how there’s no real process for this."

Advocates are pushing for psychedelics against the backdrop of veteran suicides rising in Missouri. The state’s suicide rate for both veteran and general populations is significantly higher than the national average, according to a recent report by Missouri’s Interim Committee on Veterans Mental Health and Suicide.

After two hearings last summer, the committee recommended the state to budget at least $27 million for the new 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. The recommendation came after the committee heard testimony from advocates asking them to consider psychedelics as an answer to the state’s suicide crisis. The legislators ultimately rejected their proposal.

Even so, drug reform lobbyist Eapen Thampy says he’s seen mounting bipartisan support for psychedelics in Missouri.

“Sure, with some lawmakers there might still be a level of stigma or even ignorance,” Thampy says. “But we’re facing so many mental health crises right now, it’s hard to find a compelling or even coherent argument in opposition right now.”

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About The Author

Monica Obradovic

Monica Obradovic is a staff writer for the Riverfront Times.
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