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One year of psilocybin in Oregon: availability increases while costs remain high 

A psilocybin mushroom awaits testing at Rose City Laboratories, March 17, 2023.
Kristyna Wentz-Graff
A psilocybin mushroom awaits testing at Rose City Laboratories, March 17, 2023.

Oregon’s first service center for the psychedelic drug psilocybin received its license one year ago this month.

Psilocybin, found in psychedelic mushrooms, was approved by Oregon voters for therapeutic use in 2020. Oregon was the first state in the nation to do so. The drug is used to treat PTSD, severe depression and substance use disorder, among other conditions.

A variety of groups, including veterans’ organizations, support its therapeutic use, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration designated psilocybin as a breakthrough therapy for treatment resistant depression and major depressive disorder.

Since EPIC Healing Eugene became the state’s first psilocybin service center last May, the number of centers, where psilocybin can legally be consumed by those over 21, has grown significantly.

The state now has 27 service centers and over 300 licensed facilitators, according to Heidi Pendergast, the Oregon director for the nonprofit Healing Advocacy Fund, which supports and educates about psilocybin programs.

There are also psilocybin training programs, testing labs and manufacturers.

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is in charge of regulating psilocybin products and services.

But the service centers are concentrated in the western half of the state, in places like Portland, Ashland and Bend. That makes access more difficult for people living in rural, eastern areas.

And despite the growth, this therapy is still expensive. Speaking on JPR’s Jefferson Exchange on Tuesday, Pendergast said an individual session can cost $1,200 for an individual and $750 for a group.

“Those numbers have come down significantly since the program first launched in May, and we anticipate they will continue to decrease as more service centers come online. But this is cost-prohibitive, and we acknowledge that, and we’re exploring different ways to be able to bring the cost down for folks,” she said.

Pendergast said 3,500 people have received psilocybin treatment in Oregon in the past year.

Drew Snyder, a facilitator at Omnia Group in Ashland, said the number of clients they have each day varies.

“It kind of comes and goes in waves, but I’d say that there’s a lot of people that are interested in this, and the word is really getting out, and people are experiencing a lot of benefit,” he said.

Opponents of psilocybin use are concerned about potential negative side effects and say more research needs to be conducted.

Snyder said safety is the first priority for service centers.

“And then to have a very controlled environment with a facilitator who is there to provide safety and support and emotional support during the journey so that it’s very therapeutic,” he said.

All service centers haven’t been successful. According to reporting by Willamette Week, a center in Portland became the first to close in March due to a lack of clients.

At the end of 2023, OHA said its goals for 2024 include issuing annual license renewals, continuing to build compliance systems and updating its administrative rules.

Jane Vaughan is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. Jane began her journalism career as a reporter for a community newspaper in Portland, Maine. She's been a producer at New Hampshire Public Radio and worked on WNYC's On The Media.