'Magic mushrooms' for therapy? Vets help sway conservatives

Matthew Butler
Posted at 2:25 PM, Apr 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-16 14:25:40-04

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Matthew Butler spent 27 years in the Army, but it took a day in jail to convince him his post-traumatic stress disorder was out of control.

The recently retired Green Beret had already tried antidepressants, therapy and a support dog. But his arrest for punching a hole in his father’s wall after his family tried to stage an intervention in Utah made it clear none of it was working.

“I had a nice house, I had a great job, whatever, but I was unable to sleep, had frequent nightmares, crippling anxiety, avoiding crowds,” he said. “My life was a wreck.”

He eventually found psychedelic drugs, and he says they changed his life. “I was able to finally step way back and go, ‘Oh, I see what’s going on here. I get it now,’” said Butler, now 52. Today his run-ins with police have ended, he’s happily married and reconciled with his parents.

Butler, who lives in the Salt Lake City suburbs, is among military veterans in several U.S. states helping to persuade lawmakers to study psychedelic mushrooms for therapeutic use.

The medicinal use of hallucinogenic mushrooms is making inroads in U.S. states as military veterans advocate for the therapeutic value of psychedelic drugs, including in conservative states like Utah, Texas and Oklahoma.

At least four states have approved studying their medicinal properties in the last two years and several U.S. cities have also decriminalized so-called magic mushrooms.

Experts say the research is promising for treating conditions ranging from PTSD to quitting smoking, but caution some serious risks remain, especially for those with certain mental health conditions.

Oregon is the first, and so far only, state to legalize the therapeutic use of psilocybin, the psychedelic active ingredient found in certain mushrooms.

But studying them has gotten approval not only in blue states like Hawaii, Connecticut and Maryland but also GOP-led Utah, Texas, and Oklahoma, where the state House passed a bill this year.