Legal use of hallucinogenic mushrooms begins in Oregon
The certification programs are open to anyone with a high school diploma who has passed a background check. The license is limited to Oregon residents until 2025. However, the Fluence program primarily selected applicants with prior experience in the mental health field — social workers, hospice nurses, and psychiatrists.
The curriculum included a significant focus on non-therapeutic issues, including indigenous traditions involving hallucinogens, the negative social impact of US drug policies, and the impact of systemic racism on marginalized populations.
Although psilocybin is widely considered safe and serious side effects are rare, the practical aspects of the course attempted to prepare presenters for potentially difficult moments, including sexual arousal or intense emotional outbursts, particularly in those with suppressed trauma.
Nathan Howard, operations manager at InnerTrek, another state-approved training company, said the company is particularly interested in applicants with a trait known as equanimity, or the ability to remain calm in difficult situations. “You will be sitting with people who are having perhaps one of the most intimate and intense experiences of their lives,” he said. “You don’t want to direct the experience — you’re there to observe — but you may also need to hold her hand at certain moments.”
The first day of Fluence’s course was largely devoted to self-reflection, with many students expressing frustration at the limitations of psychiatric drugs like Xanax or Zoloft being used to treat the symptoms of mental illness, not the underlying causes. Others spoke in awe of their own experiences with psychedelics.
At one point, a teacher asked students to close their eyes, meditate and think about what brought them to the hotel conference room. They later split into small groups to share personal stories about times in their lives when they felt oppressed or excluded. They also spoke about the lack of diversity within their ranks, prompting a round of self-reflection on their role in promoting a therapy that, for now, will likely only be available to a privileged few.
But most of all, there was great joy that the long-awaited moment of legalizing psychedelics had finally arrived. Mr. Wright, the hospital’s psychiatric nurse, said he has personally experienced the healing power of psychedelics and wants his patients to experience those benefits as well.
The dominant model of mental health care, he said, focuses on reassuring patients who show up to the emergency room in the midst of a psychotic or manic episode. The drugs, Mr. Wright said, were effective in stabilizing patients, but many of them returned simply because the underlying trauma or depression was left untreated. “I’m glad to be here,” he told the group, “so I can stop giving my patients ineffective drugs.”