Could legalizing psychoactive mushrooms cut down on opioid epidemic?

Feb 14, 2023, 8:00 PM | Updated: 8:05 pm

Utah 2022 legislative session...

Aerial view of the Utah State Capitol. Federal disaster relief is on its way to Utah to help those impacted by flooding and wildfires. Photo: Ravell Call, Deseret News, KSL-TV Chopper 5

SALT LAKE CITY — A new bill in the Utah legislature would legalize psychoactive mushrooms in a way that is similar to the state’s marijuana laws.

Proponents of the bill say it could aid in the fight against the opioid epidemic. 

Sen. Liz Escamilla (D-Salt Lake City), the sponsor of the bill, joined KSL at Night on Monday with hosts Maura Carabello and Taylor Morgan to discuss why S.B. 200 is so important.

Carabello asked, “What are the basic things you’re trying to achieve with this bill?”

“So more than anything is just an extra tool in the toolbox as we continue to explore solutions on our mental health crisis that we’re facing, not only as a state but as a nation,” Escamilla said. 

She explains that a lot of individuals suffering from depression and PTSD along with veterans are running out of options for help.

Psychoactive mushrooms will be handled by those trained 

Escamilla acknowledges that psychoactive mushrooms are a federally illegal substance.

“And the way we’re going to do it is by treating it inside a facility,” she said. “So, you will be in a medical setting, recommended by a physician.”

She said the only person who will handle the substance is a qualified mental health provider. Additionally, trained personnel will have at least 80 hours of training on the treatment. The mental health provider will be with the individual as the substance is being administered, Escamilla said.

Morgan asked, “But at what point is this a treatment for symptoms versus a prescribed escape from symptoms?”

“It is about your activity and your, you know, the brain activity,” Escamilla said. “So yeah, you’re enhancing this through this process.”

Studies say the treatment is safe, according to lawmaker

Escamilla goes on to say that the University of Utah and Johns Hopkins University have conducted lengthy studies on the use of psychoactive mushrooms.

“This is a very, very safe encounter,” she said. 

Escamilla said it’s important to allow individuals to have more options.

“Just the idea that you will allow people to have option versus opioids,” she said. “We are addictive and have killed millions of Americans, and this opportunity to treat your inside, your depression [and] your PTSD in a different way.”

Escamilla admits this treatment will be costly, but also acknowledges that it will not be covered by the state.

“But we know there’s multiple nonprofit organizations, especially supporting veterans that will pay for the veterans to get access to some of the care,” she said.

Carabello asked, “Are there concerns about a caregiver there?”

Escamilla stresses that individuals will never have access to the substance. Furthermore, those individuals will never be allowed to take the medication home. 

“Those providers will have to work together to make sure that licensed medical doctor is working in collaboration with a mental health specialist, qualified mental specialist as this is being administered,” she said. 

Escamilla said the state is running low on licensed mental health providers, who could help those in need. As a result, she said the suicide rate is too high.

“I just want to make sure we have an extra tool in that toolbox,” she said. 


KSL at Night can be heard most weeknights from 7 to 9 p.m.

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Could legalizing psychoactive mushrooms cut down on opioid epidemic?