Wed | Apr 1, 2020

Eric Osborne |Using magic mushrooms as plant medicine

Published:Friday | February 21, 2020 | 12:05 AMEric Osborne/Guest Columnist

We are very grateful for the media coverage on the profound health benefits of magic mushrooms and the healing work that MycoMeditations does. We also appreciate the opportunity to clear up any confusion that may have arisen from the article, headlined ‘‘HIGH’-RISK RETREATS – Hundreds of Americans swarm Ja for mushroom drug sessions’, published on January 15, 2020, in The Gleaner.

We are concerned that the article might give the impression that magic mushrooms are dangerous party drugs and that Myco meditations is playing fast and loose with people’s safety. We would like to reassure the public that this is not at all what we are doing.

We use magic mushrooms not as ‘party’ drugs, but as plant medicine. Our clients are not coming on our retreats to ‘rave’, but, rather, to heal themselves. There is extensive clinical research under way in the mental health sphere globally on psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms. The research findings have been overwhelmingly positive, showing psilocybin as a promising tool for healing anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, and many other ailments.

I was quoted in the article as saying that mushrooms have caused “40 per cent of retreat participants to suffer ill effects”, but I’d like to clarify what I meant. Taking magic mushrooms on our retreats is certainly not a fun “party experience”. In fact, it can be challenging, hard work.

The medicine can put clients in touch with difficult emotions and past experiences that may underlie their anxiety, depression or other problems. Myco meditations offers our clients a supportive environment to do this work, which is why they keep coming to us. We also believe the healing process has a spiritual dimension that is enhanced by the immersion in nature that Jamaica’s beautiful landscape allows.

But we take the issue of safety very seriously. We have experienced facilitators, including a specially trained therapist, on every retreat. Our guest-facilitator ratio is usually 1:2, with additional staff on hand. We refer anyone with questions around safety to our network of medical professionals. We won’t accept applicants with specific physical or mental health risks, such as a history of psychosis.

NOT HIGH RISK

We’ve administered thousands of doses and we have never had a medical emergency – except once when a guest required attention after he fell in a bathroom in the dark, but he had not dosed that day. We don’t believe our retreats are “high risk”. If they were, our clients would not be returning home in glowing health!

We would also like to point out that psilocybin mushrooms are known to be one of the safest psychedelic substances on the planet, with a very long history of use in traditional societies. Like marijuana, magic mushrooms were part of ancient African spiritual practice, as depicted in African rock paintings. And ibogaine, also long used in parts of Africa, is now showing promise as a treatment for opioid addiction.

Of course marijuana, the medicine of Rastafarianism, has an ancient history too, and was introduced by Jamaica to the rest of the world. It was my interest in Rastafarianism that brought me here many years ago, and it is still a big part of my identity.

Jamaica became a global leader in endorsing marijuana as a legitimate medicinal substance. Now other countries are forging ahead, turning the cannabis industry into a highly profitable one. And it looks like the same will happen with psychedelic mushrooms. Campaigns are underway in the US to legalise psilocybin, given the favourable research findings. Pharmaceutical-grade psilocybin is now being manufactured for ongoing clinical research and may soon be available for therapeutic uses.

Luckily, we are extremely privileged to have nature provide us with these plant medicines. But to be clear, we are not importing these mushrooms or any other illegal substances into Jamaica. The p silocybe cubensis, or magic mushrooms, first discovered in Cuba (thus their name), occur naturally across the Caribbean, including in Jamaica. We collect biological samples here and grow them here too, as locals have been doing for years.

While other ‘mushroom people’ may be operating in these parts, we can only speak for ourselves. We are always open to constructive criticism, knowing there is always room to improve in our endeavour to help people heal.

Eric Osborne is the founder of MycoMeditations. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.