Before his first facilitated “magic” mushroom trip, Chad Kuske couldn’t escape his own road rage.
If another driver pulled in front of him, he’d become consumed with anger, speeding ahead all of the cars on busy highways. For hours following a drive, Kuske couldn’t let go of the anger, tension, and anxiety he felt during them, no matter how brief.
But after more than a decade self-medicating with drugs and alcohol to cope with PTSD, Kuske, a retired Navy SEAL who served for 18-and-a-half years until 2016, learned of an underground psychedelic retreat where army vets like himself could take psilocybin, the psychedelic compound in “magic” mushrooms as a potential treatment for anxiety and depression.
In August 2019, Kuske had his first therapeutic mushroom trip. He told Insider the experience transformed his life, breaking destructive patterns, reducing PTSD symptoms, and helping him feel less distressed about daily life.
“I came out of it feeling rejuvenated, feeling this massive weight had been lifted off of me that I’ve been carrying around needlessly for decades,” Kruske, 39, told Insider. “I came out of the session with the desire and the willingness to make the changes necessary to start moving in the other direction.”
Soon, this type of alternative psychedelic-drug treatment could be more widely available in the United States.
Research on psilocybin as a potential depression treatment
On November 3, Oregonians voted to pass Measure 109, which legalizes psilocybin for therapeutic uses. Over the next two years, the Oregon Health Authority will roll out a plan to cultivate and distribute the trippy drug to residents who want to buy and use them for mental health purposes under the supervision of trained drug facilitators.
The five cities of Denver, Colorado, Oakland, California, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Santa Cruz, California, and Washington D.C. have decriminalized the substance so people who are in possession of it are the lowest priority to law enforcement.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins and NYU conducted multiple small studies of cancer patients who experienced anxiety and depression as a result of their diagnoses. After giving these patients psilocybin, the majority reported an improvement in these symptoms immediately after treatment and over time.
The most recent study from Johns Hopkins researchers looked at normally healthy people and found psilocybin to be four times more effective at reducing depression symptoms than traditional anti-depressants.
How he did his first 8-hour underground trip
After hearing journalist Michael Pollan discuss psychedelics research on an episode of Joe Rogan’s podcast and using them recreationally in his youth, Kuske was intrigued by their therapeutic potential.
So when a veteran organization introduced him to a group that could facilitate a psilocybin trip, he took the opportunity.
He had his trip with five other participants at an undisclosed location in a cozy, living room-like space due to the still widely illegal nature of psilocybin.
Beforehand, Kuske set an intention to let go of the anger and apathy he felt and remember what it was like 20 years prior when he enjoyed life. After an eight-hour session where Kuske laid on his own twin-sized mattress alongside the five others, all listening to curated calming music while shades covered their eyes, that intention clicked.
Decades of therapy in just one drug trip
Kuske said his initial psilocybin trip had an immediate effect on him, and he’s noticed nothing but positive changes since.
“I think the single biggest lasting effect that I’ve taken away is just a much greater awareness. So now, instead of reacting to things in life, I can respond. When depression is setting in, or when something angers me or any of the things I used to get frustrated or upset about, I can see it happening,” Kuske said.
Since then, Kuske said he’s done “magic” mushrooms every four months in facilitated underground settings to maintain his intention for a more grounded and self-aware life.
Each of these sessions includes an integration portion following the trip, where Kuske talks to the facilitator about what he experienced and how to apply those messages into his daily routine.
“I spent decades in therapy just trying to figure out for myself what caused this, or why am I like this? And psilocybin, just in a moment, makes all of these things crystal clear to where you’re left with not a doubt in your mind about why something was, or where to go, or how it’s not serving you,” Kuske said of the clarity his psilocybin trips has provided him.
Kuske believes legal ‘magic’ mushrooms could help other veterans like him
As someone who’s spent most of his youth in Oregon and the past three years living there following his retirement, Kuske has high hopes Measure 109 can help folks like him who are struggling with their mental health.
Though the exact procedures and rules for the bill have yet to be decided, Kuske said affordable psilocybin could help people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to obtain it, or those who would get the drug from riskier underground sources.
Kuske said he’d like to train to become a facilitator one day and pay forward the psilocybin benefits he’s experienced firsthand.
As for his driving, “I expect people to cut me off. I want them to cut me off because it gives me a chance to just be patient and understanding. That one change alone, it sounds so simple, but for me that was massive.”