Free Psychedelics Hotline Here for Mushroom Questions and More | Westword

New Psychedelics Info Line Is Waiting on Your Call

The free hotline, launched in Colorado earlier this month, is staffed by experts who provide scientific data and resources about psilocybin and other psychedelics.
Colorado voters decriminalized psilocybin mushrooms, DMT, ibogaine and mescaline in 2022.
Colorado voters decriminalized psilocybin mushrooms, DMT, ibogaine and mescaline in 2022. Unsplash/Marco Allegretti
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As medical and recreational use of psychedelics increases, so does the need for quality information. Instead of using digital responses and chatbots, however, the new Psychedelic Info Line is going the old-school route: It's relying on people.

The free phone line for questions about psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, DMT, ibogaine, mescaline and other psychedelic substances, launched this month and will be led by Dr. Matthew Lowe, executive director of Unlimited Sciences, the organization behind the Psychedelic Info Line. Given the amount of emerging information about psychedelics and all of the scientific monosyllables involved, it's better to have a human touch, Lowe says.

"There is a need for an organization to be able to essentially take all of this information and translate it so the average person can understand it," Lowe explains. "It can be very difficult to read academic journals. They are often written for other academics and can contain terminology and jargon that's often hard to understand."

Try to say "psilocin in psilocybe natalensis" ten times in a row, and you'll understand.

A neuroscience and psychology researcher for institutions like Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University, Lowe has been conducting real-world and observational research to document how people use psilocybin mushrooms for anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress. The South Africa native has also conducted research into the effects of ceremonial ayahuasca use for refugees and is preparing a similar ayahuasca study in Costa Rica for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Unlimited Sciences, a psychedelics research nonprofit in Colorado Springs, was founded by Realm of Caring co-founder Heather Jackson and Del Jolly in 2018. After compiling research and user surveys about ayahuasca and psilocybin and seeing Realm of Caring, Unlimited Sciences' parent organization, operate a phone line for cannabis users and field over 73,000 inquiries in less than ten years, Lowe felt it was time to launch a similar initiative for people who are curious about psychedelics. A six-figure donation helped, too.

The Wana Brands Foundation, a charitable organization founded by Wana Brands cannabis edibles CEO Nancy Whiteman, donated $112,500 toward the creation and operation of the Psychedelic Info Line, Lowe says. On top of the hotline, Unlimited Sciences has also created online portals for information as well as a web page of frequently asked questions about psychedelics.

"The goal was always to model after the Realm of Caring's hotline. ... Over the last few years, we have accumulated a lot of data," Lowe says. "It was the right time to do it, too. It's the right moment. Psychedelics have obviously rapidly been evolving."

Psycehdelics in Colorado

In 2022, Colorado became the second state — after Oregon — to legalize medical psilocybin, and the first state to decriminalize the cultivation, possession and sharing of certain natural psychedelics, including DMT, mescaline and psilocybin, for adults 21 and over (ibogaine can be grown and possessed, but not shared). California and Massachusetts could enact forms of statewide psychedelics reform in coming years, too, according to activists, while national interest in psilocybin has reached new heights.

Psilocybin was designated as a breakthrough depression therapy by the United States Food and Drug Administration in 2019 and has shown even more potential since then. In 2022, Johns Hopkins University research determined that psilocybin could serve as a "substantial antidepressant" for up to a year for some patients when paired with supportive therapy. Psychedelics such as ibogaine, methyl​enedioxy​methamphetamine (MDMA) and psilocybin have shown therapeutic promise for post-traumatic stress disorder as well, with all three drugs becoming increasingly popular among military veterans with combat trauma.

Recreational use and self-medication with edibles and drinks infused with psilocybin are also on the rise, according to rulemaking hearings held by Colorado's new Natural Medicine Division, a new arm of the Department of Revenue created to regulate commercial activity surrounding medical psilocybin. Police are noticing, too.

Psilocybin seizures by law enforcement across the country have increased dramatically since the mid-2010s, according to a study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, with the number of magic mushroom seizures across the country going from 402 in 2017 to 1,396 in 2022. A growing number of cities have decriminalized the possession of psilocybin since Denver became the first city to do so in 2019, however.

Psychedelics may not work for everyone, Lowe cautions.

According to Lowe, common questions about psychedelics usually center on dosage, how psychedelics interact with prescription medication, the differences in macrodosing versus microdosing, how to enroll in clinical trials or research, the legality of psychedelics, and the differences between psychedelics and whether to take them alone or with a group or facilitator.

One area of assistance that the Psychedelic Info Line won't be offering is help through intense psychedelic trips. If the hotline does receive such calls, they will be referred to local emergency services and the Fireside Project, a free phone line that provides live guidance and support during such experiences.

"We have anticipated those calls, and we have to be very strict about the fact that we are not a crisis line, that we are not there to help individuals in an emergency," Lowe says.

Instead, the Psychedelic Info Line will offer "highly detailed, evidence-based and well-referenced information" to the psychedelic-curious, Lowe explains. Scripts, topics and discussion scenarios have already been developed, and the phone lines are open.

You remember how to speak into one of those things, right?

The Psychedelic Info Line can be reached at 888-210-3553 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, Mondays through Thursdays; you can also email questions to [email protected]. Anyone going through a psychedelic crisis or emergency experience can call or text the Fireside Project at 623-473-7433.
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