Four women — two daughters, their mom and their grandmother — recently got together in Colorado for the emotional trip of their lives. They underwent psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy using, a compound found in mushrooms.
The retreat, specifically tailored for women, was legal followinglast year to decriminalize psilocybin's use.
As three generations of one family got together, they were hoping for a new and different path to healing.
Delaney Sanchez, 23, said she was diagnosed as a teen with anxiety, which would manifest in panic attacks. Medications to treat it, she said, weren't effective.
"They've made me feel like very...kind of numb to everything," she said.
Recently, her mom, 59-year-old Dana Sanchez, asked if she wanted to try mushrooms — as a family, including with her 77-year-old grandmother.
"We had talked about it...for my anxiety which I was really interested in and I kinda felt like if my grandma could do it, I should be able to do it, too," Delaney Sanchez said, laughing.
Magic mushrooms took root in the counterculture movement of the 1960s and found their way into research labs. Around 200 species of mushrooms are known to contain the active component that produces psychedelic effects. But psychedelics, including psilocybin, were outlawed in 1970.
Some 30 years later, scientists began revisiting psilocybin and found it increased brain activity. Today, clinical trials are underway at top research institutions, and some are now turning to it in search of healing.
Heather Lee, who has been a therapist for over 30 years, said she went through one of the first trainings to become certified in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy afterto vote in favor of creating a regulated system for substances like psilocybin and another hallucinogen, psilocin.
"Mushrooms seem to be very gentle teachers," Lee said. "They bring to light and bring to surface material that needs to be healed."
Her recent therapy session with the four women involved drinking mushroom tea, after which each woman retreated into a personal space for introspection, aided by eye masks and headphones with pre-loaded soundtracks. Lee said she can't guarantee people's safety but that she screens "really carefully" during her sessions.
Not long after drinking the tea, Dana Sanchez started feeling uneasy, while Delaney Sanchez got emotional and sick.
"I had a rough start, for sure," Delaney Sanchez said. "I struggled a lot with that...overwhelming feeling of anxiety and just, I felt trapped by my own panic. And then, I just had to let go. And I just feel like once I did, it got a lot more peaceful."
Danielle Sanchez, 25, smiled during her session, and later said she found a profound sense of peace and love.
"I felt like I could face my own fears with, like, have a smile on my face and just saying, 'It's silly, just let it go!'" she said.
Donna Strong, the grandmother, faced more somber reflections, which she and the others shared more than four hours after drinking the tea, at what Lee calls an integration session.
"Mine was a little dark. I just couldn't move. You know, I felt, uh, uncomfortable. And I'm thinking maybe that's been my whole life," Strong said.
All the women said they felt healing took place — a shared experience Dana Sanchez was grateful for.
"The gift is the women in my family," she said. "Just how strong we are, but also we're growing together and we're releasing stuff together."
Lee believes a psychedelic renaissance is taking place.
"People are hungry for emotional and psychospiritual healing," she said. "We need soul healing."
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