Lawmakers to file $5M bill to research the use of Psilocybin, MDMA in medical treatments
State lawmakers are considering legalizing medical marijuana this year. But a bipartisan group of legislators want to look at another type of drug that could be used in medical treatments.
Psilocybin, sometimes called magic mushrooms, and MDMA, better known as ecstasy, can be abused by recreational drug users.
But new research suggests they could help treat — and even cure — conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder and cluster headaches.
A group of N.C. House Republicans and Democrats plan to file a bill that would fund about $5 million in studies at the state’s research universities.
Dr. Raymond Turpin of the Pearl Psychedelic Institute in Waynesville is one of the bill’s supporters.
"I felt if we could ever find a medicine or treatment that could effectively treat trauma, that we can potentially make a 100-year leap in mental health treatment," Turpin said at a recent news conference promoting the legislation. "I feel like psilocybin and MDMA, their preliminary research indicates that these could be potential solutions to some of our problems."
Jamie Sohn suffers from PTSD after being a victim of gun violence. She says other treatments haven’t worked and she wants the chance to try psychedelics.
"I wanted to be a part of those studies," Sohn said. "But I didn't have the time off from work and couldn't travel far away. So, it looked like I would have to watch from the outside. But gosh, I wanted them here in North Carolina. So why not North Carolina?"
Preliminary studies have shown a few doses of MDMA or psilocybin can effectively treat people with PTSD and other mental illnesses. That prompted the FDA to label them as breakthrough therapies, which can speed up the research and development process.
Rep. Wayne Sasser, R-Stanly, is the only pharmacist in the legislature. He’s co-sponsoring the bill with Rep. Allen Chesser, R-Nash, and Rep. John Autry, D-Mecklenburg.
"I'm in the treatment business, OK?" Sasser said. "I give you pills that you take for the rest of your life. This is a cure."
Army veteran Jonathan Lubecky says MDMA cured his PTSD from being injured in an explosion in Iraq.
"I took my first dose of MDMA Nov. 22, 2014," he said. "I've been PTSD-free ever since. I took MDMA three times eight years ago, I have not taken MDMA since. And it's not like I hid from my triggers."
It's unclear if the stigma surrounding psychedelic drugs will prevent the bill from passing. But its sponsors plan to try to get it through this session.
Meanwhile, the medical marijuana legalization effort has passed the Senate but is still awaiting its first committee hearing in the House. House Speaker Tim Moore has said changing attitudes toward the drug could give it a better shot in his chamber this year.