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Push to legalize psychedelic-assisted therapy treatment continues

Psychedelic-assisted therapy treatments seeing another push for legalization
Psychedelic-assisted therapy treatments seeing another push for legalization 03:54

The push to legalize psychedelic-assisted therapy treatments continues, as patients say it helps and the FDA recently said some psychedelic drugs show promise.

Nina Olmstead has struggled with anxiety most of her adult life, but she said her first ketamine assisted therapy session proved to be a breakthrough.

"It gave me a sense of self understanding and self-forgiveness. That is kind of what I was trying to cultivate through therapy," said Olmstead.  

Years of traditional therapy and taking anti-anxiety medication didn't work for the Menlo Park resident.  

"I've struggled with ADHD. I've just found psychedelic therapies and alternative therapies are a really powerful substitute for those kinds of medications," said Olmstead.  

Lawmakers are closer to legalizing psychedelic assisted therapy in California as a new bill is making its way through the state legislature. The effort would expand the types of psychedelic drugs allowed for therapeutic use. 

Supporters said this kind of therapy is moving the needle to address mental health struggles.  

Lindsay Olshan is a trained psychedelic assisted therapist and founder of FADEN, who leads one-on-one ketamine journeys. 

"What we're finding with the psychedelic approach is that people are actually getting into the root cause of a lot of those symptoms and being able to process that fully so that they're not requiring those medicines anymore," said Olshan. 

Olshan has cultivated her practice for 20 years. But it was only four years ago when she added psychedelic assisted therapy using Ketamine.  

"It deepened people's ability to heal. It enriched the therapeutic process. It gave me more passion for what I'm doing because it really feels like I'm moving the needle with people in a way that has been hard to do," said Olshan. 

Prescribed ketamine sessions are legal in California. But the use of psychedelic drugs like hallucinogenic mushrooms and MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy, are not. 

State Senator Scott Wiener is trying to change that. 

"It's all in the shadows because it's technically a crime, and so our primary goal is to bring it out of the shadows," said Wiener. 

Wiener's years-long push to decriminalize the possession of psychedelic drugs came to an abrupt halt with a veto by Governor Newsom last fall.

The revised bill wouldn't make recreational use legal, but rather open the doors for psychedelic assisted therapists. 

"We want them to be able to be certified and out in the sunlight and not have to worry about getting arrested. That's really one of our goals here," said Wiener.  

The California District Attorneys Association has spoken out against decriminalizing psychedelic drugs so has the California Coalition for Psychedelic Safety and Education, one of the most vocal critics of Wiener's efforts. 

It now supports supervised therapeutic use but wants more research and data on psychedelics. 

"If it appears that decriminalization of recreational use is appropriate that could happen, but right now the science is just not there and as we've seen use increase, we've seen more adverse events and consequences," said Beth Parker of the California Coalition for Psychedelic Safety and Education. 

The new measure, Senate Bill 1012, would require the establishment of a state licensing board that would develop training and oversight rules. Therapists would have to screen individuals. 

"I think the impact could be profound in terms of giving people another option to heal and have that be done in a very regulated, safe environment," said Olshan. 

"The combination of working with the ketamine and the traditional therapy kind of fused things for me in a way that was really, really impactful," said Olmstead. 

For Nina Olmstead, the shift she has experienced, is enough proof for her.    

Food and Drug Administration officials have recently said certain psychedelic drugs show promise as potential treatments for a variety of disorders. Oregon and Colorado have already decriminalized magic mushrooms and other psychedelic drugs. 

A UC Berkeley poll in 2023 found more than six in 10 Americans support legalizing regulated therapeutic access to psychedelics.

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