Wed | Jan 22, 2020

Retreaters say magic mushrooms lift spirits, ease sorrow

Published:Wednesday | January 15, 2020 | 12:10 AMCarlene Davis/Gleaner Writer
Shanika Sandcroft of MycoMeditations handles tissue culture from magic mushrooms.
Shanika Sandcroft of MycoMeditations handles tissue culture from magic mushrooms.

Married for more than 20 years with two children, 45-year-old Vince was seeking to find meaning for his life, and decided to take the plunge with magic mushrooms, a fungus with hallucinogenic properties.

Having been born in the United States to a Jamaican father, he said he had been looking for an other-worldly experience and spent the better part of a year doing his research. He finally made the trip to St Elizabeth in November 2019.

“I had gone through some challenges in my life, relationship challenges. I had some challenges with my work, trying to decide where my career was going,” he told The Gleaner.

“When you have stresses in your life and you start to try to assess what is important to you at that point in your life, what is your purpose, and what are the things I should focus my energies on, I was hopeful that the mushrooms would give me that, open me up to be aware and to give me a different perspective on the good things in my life.”

So, what exactly did Vince see during his mushroom sessions in Jamaica?

“It is a profound experience … . I had a lot of visualisations that were animals, spirit kind of based, like I saw different visions with animal spirits,” he shared.

Vince said that the setting at MycoMeditations was key to the highs that he experienced, immersed in nature with flowers, butterflies, and birds, and the lapping sounds of the sea.

He revealed that he has not re-enlisted since his maiden mushroom trip but said he was not opposed to going another round.

“There are other things that I would like to take to a sessions and work through. Since the sessions, I am different. I respond to situations different now,” said Vince, testifying to the positives of the mind-altering fungus that is also called psilocybin mushroom.

“I was with people who were very career-driven, professionals, people who were accomplished, people who were 10, 15 years older than me, so it wasn’t a bunch of party people. It wasn’t people just looking to get high,” he said.

DEPRESSION BUSTER

Jill, also from the United States, has been struggling to find a solution to her depression. Online research about magic mushrooms led her to the shores of Jamaica, retreating to the south coast haven of Bluefields Bay.

“I have been searching for help, for major chronic depression and anxiety for about 25 years, I am what they called a drug failure person, nothing helps. I was looking for an alternative therapy,” the 53-year-old told The Gleaner.

“The first trip was a very low dose for me. It’s very hard to describe. I was feeling things and seeing things that I didn’t really know exist, kind of a like new perspective on how the world looks.” Since the mushroom retreat in Jamaica, Jill said that she has taken no medication for depression, praising the fungus as a wonder cure.

“It helped immensely. I used to take lots of medication and didn’t feel anywhere near the amount of relief I felt after doing the mushrooms. It is much, much more effective. No extreme sadness, no more depressive state, not at all. I am definitely not afraid to do it again, and it’s something I would recommend to others,” said Jill.

But psychiatrist Dr E. Anthony Allen cautioned that while he was not opposed to the use of promoted benefits of mushrooms and is aware of ongoing research, persons should be careful about treating illnesses such as depression without a trained physician.

“You can have anecdotal reports. People can say I took this and I felt this way, but you will find that different substances can affect people differently, and people have different metabolism and can respond differently,” said Allen, adding that dosage was a variable in the administration of medicine.

“So, you have to have the undergirding of scientific research before one can say or make any claim that this drug or substance is effective and it is safe enough for clinical use.”

carlene.davis@gleanerjm.com