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Lawmakers want to fund research into – but not legalize – compound found in psychedelic mushrooms

The Indiana Statehouse at night.
Lauren Chapman
/
IPB News
SB 139 establishes a fund to give research institutions financial support to study how psilocybin can treat mental health and other medical conditions, but does not legalize the use outside of clinical studies.

Researchers have been looking at using psilocybin — a chemical compound found in some psychedelic mushrooms — as a treatment for mental health issues, substance use disorders and chronic pain. A Senate committee passed a bill Thursday that would make it easier for that research to take place in Indiana.

SB 139 establishes a fund to give research institutions financial support to study how psilocybin can treat mental health and other medical conditions, but does not legalize the use outside of clinical studies.

Dr. David Diaz, a psychiatrist at IU Health, said when traditional treatments don’t work, patients will tell him they have no sense of hope.

“This bill will at least give people a sense of hope, even if they don't qualify for a study,” Diaz said. “Even if the studies aren't even done, at least it's being looked at.”

Among other things, psilocybin is being studied as a “breakthrough therapy” for post-traumatic stress disorder, treatment-resistant depression and substance use disorders.

READ MORE: What is stopping cannabis legalization in Indiana?

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Dr. Leslie Hulvershorn, the department of psychiatry chair at the Indiana University School of Medicine, said doing this research at places like IU allows for the possibility of developing patents and bringing investments from pharmaceutical companies to Indiana.

“Establishing a robust evidence base is critical for gaining regulatory approval and ensuring that psilocybin assisted therapy is both effective and safe for widespread clinical use,” Hulvershorn said.

The bill also requires research institutions that conduct a clinical study to report any findings to an interim study committee, the Indiana Department of Health and the Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addiction.

The bill passed the Senate Health and Provider Services and the Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously and now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

Abigail is our health reporter. Contact them at aruhman@wboi.org.

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Abigail Ruhman covers statewide health issues. Previously, they were a reporter for KBIA, the public radio station in Columbia, Missouri. Ruhman graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism.