Several months ago, the citizens of Colorado voted to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms. Later this week, Colorado’s capital and largest city, Denver, will host a conference organized by a psychedelic advocacy group.
Former Green Bay Packers quarterback and current New York Jets star Aaron Rodgers has been selected as one of several featured conference speakers. Advocates have claimed that psychedelics can help people better cope with post-traumatic stress disorders and even counteract alcoholism.
However, many medical experts have dismissed those claims, stating that more research is needed to provide evidence on the potential benefits and risks of psychedelics.
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Rodgers, a Super Bowl winner and four-time NFL MVP who is scheduled to speak on Wednesday, has been open about his use of ayahuasca.
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Rapper Jaden Smith, son of hip-hop artist and actor Will Smith, will speak in Denver. Rick Perry, former US Secretary of Energy and Governor of Texas, is also listed as a speaker. Perry has supported research into the potential benefit that psychedelics can provide to veterans who are experiencing PTSD.
The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies is believed to be the largest advocacy organization in the United States.
Nicolas Langlitz, a historian of science, noted that the conference is «purely designed to promote hype.»
«Any kind of oversold is not good for science because science needs to be accurate rather than force things,» he said. «It’s a tradeoff. (The conference) generates interest, ultimately generates more research, even though the research may be biased towards positive results.»
In the eyes of the United States federal government, psychedelics are illegal. But as studies of the potential benefits of psychedelics have become more widespread, several states have created their own drug laws.
Some researchers believe that psilocybin, the compound in psychedelic mushrooms, changes the way the brain organizes itself and may help users overcome conditions such as depression and alcoholism.
Just six years ago in Oakland, California, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies held a conference with approximately 3,000 attendees. This week, organizers estimate that at least 10,000 people will attend Denver, a sign that public interest is growing.
Other featured speakers include former NHL player Daniel Carcillo, owner of a company specializing in psychedelic therapies; Olympic silver medalist figure skater Sasha Cohen; comedians Reggie Watts and Eric Andre; podcaster Andrew Huberman; and Carl Hart, chair of the psychology department at Columbia University.
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The American Psychiatric Association has not endorsed the use of psychedelics in treatment, noting that the Food and Drug Administration has yet to offer a final determination.
Five years ago, the FDA designated psilocybin a «breakthrough therapy.» That classification generally allows for a quick process of developing and reviewing drugs that are used to treat a serious condition.
Associated Press contributed to this report.