Opinion: Psychedelics could help Utahns struggling with mental health

Psilocybin, when administered with psychological support, offers a path toward healing.

Editor’s note • This article discusses suicide. If you or people you know are at risk of self-harm, call or text 988 to reach the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline for 24-hour support.

In the wake of the recent news on the rising suicide rates in Utah it is clear that our state is facing a critical juncture in mental health. As the numbers climb, the situation demands innovative solutions. Among these solutions is the surge of research in psychedelics, particularly psilocybin.

One news article stated a 12% increase in suicide rates in Utah in 2022. This is alarming, but what really caught my attention was the simultaneous increase in the use of state sponsored resources for suicide prevention. Tools like the SafeUT apps, 988 hotline and the Live on Utah website signify a positive trend of people in crisis reaching out for help. This is a testament to the importance of accessible resources.

Psilocybin, a compound found in certain mushrooms, is making headlines for its promising therapeutic effects. Recent studies show psilocybin’s potential to significantly reduce depression and anxiety symptoms and highlight its usefulness in treating major depressive disorder and PTSD. One particular study found that a single dose of psilocybin was associated with a clinically significant and sustained reduction in these symptoms. Studies also indicate its effectiveness in reducing substance use disorders, showcasing psilocybin versatility in addressing multiple facets of mental health. This is not just about managing symptoms; this has the potential to change lives, and while research is still ongoing, the results are promising enough to warrant further exploration.

In the battle against rising suicide and depression rates, Utah has been making strides in making more resources available to the public. The state does boast more resources than many others and, while this commitment from legislators is commendable, there are still large gaps to be filled. This is where psilocybin could play a pivotal role.

Implementing psychedelics as a medical treatment will not be without challenges, but the potential benefits far outweigh the risks. It is also important to note when discussing these potential challenges that every medical intervention, even the most established ones, carry some level of risk, and psilocybin has demonstrated excellent tolerability and safety in these recent studies.

Utahns are resilient and they are reaching out for help. Imagine if mental health providers had an additional tool in their arsenal, one that could possibly transform the landscape of mental healthcare. Psilocybin, when administered with psychological support, holds the promise of being that tool, representing a paradigm shift in mental healthcare, an opportunity to rewrite the narrative, and offers a path toward healing.

The journey toward integrating psilocybin into mainstream mental health care will require careful consideration, research and responsible implementation, but the potential rewards are immense.

Kylee Shumway

Kylee Shumway has a doctorate of pharmacy from Roseman University of Health Sciences and has more than seven years of clinical experience specializing in compounding pharmacy, bio-identical hormone replacement therapy, education and government outreach. She is the current medical director for the Utah Patients Coalition.

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