This story is part of a series curated by the #ThankYouPlantMedicine movement.
At the end of 2012, Itay Nevo was sitting in the back passenger seat of a car when another vehicle came smashing from behind. The accident was so serious that he had to be airlifted to a hospital by helicopter. He had suffered numerous broken bones and a traumatic head injury, on account of which, he lost his sense of smell.
“I had 12 broken ribs, a smashed hip, a broken bone in my leg, and my head was crushed,” recalls Nevo. Within just weeks, he was on the mend—save for just one, key element: his smell. “The doctors didn’t know what to do about it, and it was more than two years passed before I recovered it. Up until that point, the doctors told me the chances of it returning were almost zero percent.”
They were wrong. Nevo had nearly given up hope when he began taking psilocybin while playing music as a part of organized plant medicine ceremonies. After the third one, he suddenly noticed his sense of smell was beginning to return.
“It never happened during the ceremony, it returned one or two days later,” he said. “I’d be walking along or doing normal things, and then it would like be ‘bam’, I got some smell. It was very surprising because, after years without having any smell, you really feel it. I was quite shocked and, at the beginning, I wasn’t sure if it was my imagination.
“But it was strong. There was a specific smell and then more and more smells began to open up to me gradually. It was unfolding by itself, but it took a few months before it fully came back.”
This week, the 36-year-old, hailing originally from Israel, and now living in Costa Rica, is “coming out” about his use of psilocybin after joining the #ThankYouPlantMedicine movement, which is empowering people to speak openly about their responsible use of psychoactive plants for healing.
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The grassroots campaign is spreading rapidly across the world, and today, February 20, 2020, the goal is to see more than 100,000 people “come out” on social media worldwide with their stories of personal transformation, using the hashtag #ThankYouPlantMedicine.
A new study published earlier this month in the journal Biological Psychiatry may help explain what Nevo claims about his healing experience using psilocybin mushrooms. The study involving 23 healthy adults provides new details about how psilocybin changes communication patterns between regions of the brain. The participants underwent MRI brain scanning 20 minutes, 40 minutes and 70 minutes after consuming either psilocybin or a placebo.
The researchers noted that those who had taken psilocybin mushrooms had reduced connectivity between areas of their brain involved in planning and decision-making—but increased connectivity between areas of the brain involved in sensation and movement.
“Psilocybin—similar to LSD—induced a pattern of brain connectivity that is characterized by increased synchronization of sensory brain regions,” study author Katrin Preller of the University of Zurich and Yale University said in a recent interview with PsyPost. “Increased sensory processing but altered integration of this sensory information may therefore underlie the psychedelic state and explain the symptoms induced by psilocybin.”
In 2018, researchers at Johns Hopkins University suggested that psilocybin be reclassified as a Schedule IV drug for medical use (rather than Schedule I, where it currently resides along with heroin as prohibited with no medical value). The experts suggested that psilocybin could help treat depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders, and this has helped fuel a decriminalization movement in several US states. Then in 2019, John Hopkins University and the Imperial College of London opened centers for psychedelic research.
Leaders of the #ThankYouPlantMedicine movement, which was formed in June 2019, envision substances such as psilocybin mushrooms being used therapeutically in a safe setting with proper care and guidance.
The campaign now has more than 400 volunteers in 55 countries dedicated to raising awareness about the healing potential of psychoactive plant medicines and psychedelic-assisted therapy. Meanwhile, an average of 100 people every day are joining the #ThankYouPlantMedicine Facebook community.