"There are countless first responders, veterans and people across California who could benefit," says a retired New York City fireman.
Psilocybin has been so effective at relieving the devastating effects of PTSD for one retired firefighter, he's now advocating for the psychedelic substance to be decriminalized so other first responders can benefit from its therapeutic benefits.
Earlier this summer, Joe McKay, who was among the first responders in New York City on 9/11, testified in front of the California Assembly Public Health Committee in support of Senate Bill 58 — state legislation that, if passed, would decriminalize naturally occurring psychedelics. And more recently, he began advocating on behalf of psilocybin to the public at large.
“Daily life was a constant struggle, and on many occasions, I thought about ending my life,” the former New York City firefighter wrote in a guest column for CalMatters. “My world completely changed when I found the healing power of psilocybin, the psychedelic substance found in certain varieties of mushrooms.”
McKay explained in the op-ed that the trauma of witnessing the death and destruction in the aftermath of the terrorist attack, all while breathing in toxic fumes, led to 15 years of “misery and despair.”
In addition to severe depression, McKay also suffered through debilitating cluster headaches, a condition he said only “made my mental health much worse.”
The resurgence of psychedelic research in the new millennium led him to discover the healing power of psilocybin mushrooms, but due to the cultural taboo and illegality, he feared losing his job if he tried them. It was only after being medically retired that he tried the psychedelic.
“And to my amazement, my headaches vanished,” he wrote.
And that's not all.
“For the first time in many years, I felt hopeful about my health. I stopped taking the cocktail of pills I had been prescribed, many of which caused damaging side effects and were addictive,” he continued. “Psilocybin also helped me get back in touch with my former, happy-go-lucky self – the Joe that my friends and family hadn’t seen since 9/11. It’s not an exaggeration to say that psilocybin gave me my life back. It’s been transformative, and allowed me to feel happiness and joy in a way I never thought I would again.”
McKay is speaking out in hopes of helping pass the bill because he believes, “There are countless first responders, veterans and people across California who could benefit from this legislation.”
While most Californians still don't have legal access to the psychedelic that indigenous populations have been using for thousands of years, there are three cities in the state that have decriminalized personal use and possession of psilocybin, in addition to a number of other cities around the country, while Oregon remains the only state to have legalized psilocybin services for adults.