Duration of Effects from Psychedelic Substances Found to Last for Days or Weeks, Research Shows

A case involving an off-duty pilot attempting to interfere with a flight after taking “magic mushrooms” highlights cautionary advice from experts.

An Alaska Airlines pilot, off-duty and accused of attempting to interfere with a flight, mentioned consuming “magic mushrooms” before boarding, drawing attention from psychedelic researchers who emphasize caution. The incident serves as a warning, particularly for individuals seeking to address persistent mental health challenges through self-medication with psychedelic substances.

In recent years, research into psychedelic drugs as a potential therapy for various mental conditions—such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and addiction—has expanded considerably. The promising initial outcomes prompted the Food and Drug Administration to issue draft guidelines in June for structuring clinical trials related to psychedelic drugs like MDMA and psilocybin, specifically for mood disorders, anxiety, and substance use issues.

The motivations behind the actions of the off-duty pilot, Joseph Emerson, 44, who confessed to authorities about his struggle with depression after the incident, raising the possibility of self-medicating with psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, remain unclear.

As discussions continue in various states about the potential legalization or decriminalization of psilocybin—seen in clinics in Oregon introducing psilocybin therapy this summer and Colorado’s approval in 2022—concerns are emerging among psychedelic researchers about potential risks being overlooked.

Dr. Joshua Siegel, a psychiatrist associated with the psychedelics research program at Washington University in St. Louis, expressed the need for a balanced dialogue on the advantages and drawbacks of decriminalization, especially in the wake of incidents like this recent headline.

While psychedelics, under tightly controlled conditions, can lead to substantial positive outcomes, such as screening for pre-existing conditions, precise dosage monitoring, mental preparedness for the experience, and comprehensive medical supervision throughout the journey, the risks warrant careful consideration.

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