The demand for psilocybin clinical trials greatly outweighs the supply. It seems that every week there is a news article about new research on the benefits of psilocybin or other psychedelics, but still no widespread access. When I discovered that psilocybin may be the answer for my refractory headache condition, I did not have the time to wait to get into a clinical trial. Not waiting changed my life and saved me from a very dark place. Maybe my experience can offer some insight for anyone considering psilocybin.
I Wasn’t Depressed, I Was In Pain
Psilocybin is making news for its powerful antidepressant properties. But I was not depressed. I was in pain, constant physical pain. While psilocybin may be more well known for its antidepressant properties, it is also a powerful tool against chronic pain.
As a young, healthy individual this would have been difficulty for me to understand before I got sick, but there are some pain conditions that modern medicine just cannot address well. You should know that there are some types of pain, particularly neuropathic pain, that do not respond to pain medication. Not even ER meds could help. I was in pain every waking moment. Was it the screaming, writhing on the table “appendicitis” type of pain? No. It was the slow, low level kind of torture that never gave me peace.
I tried psilocybin on my own, without a clinical trial. It worked, I am pretty much pain free now. It was the best decision that I could have made for myself.
Insight On Psilocybin Use
My pain condition requires rather frequent dosing to maintain a pain free status. The frequent use has made this rather “mysterious” substance familiar territory for me. I know now that waiting for a clinical trial would have probably not have helped me at all, and I hope that my insight can help others. After recovering from such a life altering experience, it was difficult for me to just go back to the life I had before. I now work as a guide at a psilocybin retreat that is focused on pain management.
Why A Psilocybin Clinical Trial May Not Be Ideal
The therapeutic results from psilocybin, whether for pain or mental health, do not last indefinitely. Some get a few months of relief, and some get only weeks. My observation so far is that the mental health benefits seem to last longer while pain relief requires more frequent maintenance.
In a clinical trial, the goal is to gather data. Sure, there are benefits to the participant, but that is not the main concern. Participants find themselves in a lurch in the weeks or months after the experience when the benefits wear off. In my case, a clinical trial would have left me high and dry right after tasting my first pain free days. The researchers would have had their data, and I would have been out of luck.
I am sure that many people choose to seek out alternatives after a clinical trial proves beneficial to them. The experience in a controlled environment gives them the confidence to try it on their own or to seek out some underground provider.
What is Good About a Clinical Environment
Not everyone is comfortable with the more mystical/spiritual kind of crowd that is common in the underground psychedelic community. I definitely was not. The idea of being in an altered state and being tended by individuals with whom you do not necessarily share a common view on basic medical science is daunting. In a clinical environment, you can be relatively certain that your sitter will not try to address a panic attack as a “faulty alignment of chakras”.
Psilocybin and psychedelics have also gotten a bit of a bad rap since the beginning of the War On Drugs. We hear scary stories about erratic behavior, HPPD, and visits to the ER. Being in a clinical setting can sooth these fears because, well, you are pretty much in a hospital already, right? I can see the appeal, but I can also see value in learning to manage the experience calmly yourself. The substance is quite physically safe, and there is not much benefit to being in a medical facility. Though I have had some difficult moments at times, I don’t think that medical intervention would have helped in any way.
Negative Aspects Of A Clinical Environment
Being away from your home in a “office” like environment can trigger additional anxiety for many people. Specifically for a pain patient, having agency in the experience is important. We pain patients must repeat the experience relatively often. Framing this as a passive experience might not help in the long run. I see no reason why comfort should only be emphasized for a chronic pain patient and not anyone else.
What Could Go Wrong Going It Alone?
If you decide to have a crack at a psychedelic experience on your own, you will most like be perfectly fine. Physically, it is next to impossible for psilocybin to harm you. However, this does not mean that absolutely nothing bad could happen. A psychedelic experience is incredibly destabilizing. Going it alone bears a greater risk of having an unpleasant experience. Anxiety tends to snowball if gone unchecked, and you might find yourself believing that you need medical attention. Unfortunately, there is not much that a medical professional can do for you in this state, even in a clinical setting. Most likely a visit to an ER would involve letting you wait it out in a darkened room, something you could comfortably do at home.
The real tragedy from traumatizing yourself with an awful solo adventure is that it may affect your ability to benefit from these substances in the future. Even if a terrifying trip still has therapeutic benefits, those benefits do not necessarily last forever. How many times could you bring yourself to repeat a scary experience before giving up? Though they both apparently have therapeutic benefits, I would choose a good trip over a bad trip any day.
But What About For Depression?
I don’t know much about clinical depression. Sure, I was flirting with ideas of suicide before trying psilocybin, but my only experience with these feelings came with the pain. Maybe I don’t know much about depression, but I do know quite a bit about the effects of psilocybin. I have experienced the effects it has had on my mood and thought processes again and again.
Psilocybin is not exactly a magic cure for all mental health issues, though the media may make it sound like it. It is simply a catalyst for change. After a psychedelic experience, it feels like you took a full 3 month vacation doing something cool and challenging like hiking the Himalayas. It is simultaneously beautiful, striking, and challenging. (In the case of a bad trip, you may feel like you got stranded in those mountains and had to cannibalize your companions. Either way, you will return with a fresh outlook on life.) This new perspective gives us the opportunity to change destructive patterns. Habits are just less “sticky” after these experiences. A good therapist is invaluable to help you maintain these effects.
Having healthy support is extremely important. Psilocybin is an agent of change, and it can be destabilizing. The environment and company you surround yourself with immediately after a psychedelic experience is especially important. This may trigger the skeptical souls reading this, but belief plays an important role. Psilocybin can put us in a very suggestible state, and you want to surround yourself with people who are familiar with the substance and that have your psychological wellbeing in mind.
Finding My Place
Psilocybin saved my life. Waiting for a psilocybin clinical trial would not have helped me in time. Using psilocybin is now something so ingrained in my life, I could not imagine surviving without it. Besides being the only thing that keeps my pain condition at bay, it is a great source of peace and wellbeing. I do not think anyone should be suffering because they don’t have access to something I take for granted.
I work as a guide at Eleusinia because helping people walk the same path has been the most rewarding endeavor of my life.