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The Whole Story with Anderson Cooper

Magic Mushrooms: Can They Change Your Mind?. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired June 18, 2023 - 20:00   ET



DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Overall, it's been just something that I've sat with and kind of have a peace of mind.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: All right. Fascinating. That's what they call reporter involvement. David Culver, thanks very much. Can't wait to see the episodes.

CULVER: Thanks, Jim.

ACOSTA: Really appreciate it. Don't miss this new episode of The Whole Story With Anderson Cooper. It starts next. Only on CNN. Reporting from Washington, I'm Jim Acosta. Thank you very much for joining me this evening. I'll see you next weekend. Have a great week, everybody.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to The Whole Story, I'm Anderson Cooper. You've probably heard of Magic Mushrooms, mushrooms which contains psilocybin, a natural substance that can cause hallucinations when ingested.

Magic Mushrooms became popular in the United States in the 1960s. But in the last decade, there's been an increasing amount of research into psilocybin to see if it can help treat depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Magic Mushrooms are still illegal on the federal level, but a few states have decriminalized them, and this year, Oregon became the first state to legalize the use of psilocybin in licensed therapy centers.

There's still a lot we don't know about psilocybins affecting the brain long-term, and many are asking if it's too soon to offer these treatments.

Over the next hour, CNN's David Culver takes us into this fascinating new world and takes us on a mind-altering journey of his own.


CULVER: Embarking on a psychedelic trip --


CULVER: -- requires a willingness to be vulnerable to hold nothing back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This wasn't easy, I imagine for any of you to just say, yes, let me jump in. And you're here for a reason.


CULVER: Documenting it with cameras for a story to be shared with the world? Well, that suggest a near total surrender to the unknown.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let go. Let go with it and just go with the flow.

CULVER: The experiences you're about to witness, they're intimate, they're exhilarating and exhausting.

After taking a dose of psilocybin, the psychoactive compound in Magic Mushrooms, you wait.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Psilocybin bring you what you need, not to what you want.

CULVER: And slowly, the plant medicine, as they call it, takes hold.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're your own guide, you're your own healer. You're going to tap into your inner self.

CULVER: You feel at first in your body, then your mind.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm praying that like this or this happens.

CULVER: Before showing you how this all plays out, we got to first set the scene. We're in Jamaica, staying at a place called Coral Cove. It's where a company called Silo Wellness host therapeutic psychedelic retreats using magic mushrooms, legal to grow and consume here in Jamaica.

The picturesque setting aim to help us disconnect from the stories we've told ourselves about our own past and reconnect to something much deeper.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The integration after ceremony is where your real journey begins. How do you bring it all together and make the changes that have come to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey. How's it going, guys?

CULVER: We're here with a handful of participants who put aside their lives in the U.S. for this five-day retreat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What I'd love to do today is just get all your voices into this space, it's a safe space.

CULVER: They hope Magic Mushrooms might bring them answers and healing. But taking this deeply personal journey is not cheap. It cost several thousand dollars, part of a burgeoning billion dollar industry that's now legal and soon available in the U.S.

But the journey to this point started weeks earlier.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Hadie [ph]. How are you? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, How are you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You want to go the same length? I have it on my notes.

CULVER: Originally from Ecuador, Johanna Buitron now lives in Los Angeles, working as a cosmetic tattoo artist. She admits, beneath the facade of external beauty, she feels lost.

It sounded like you were on this path of finding fulfillment, right?

JOHANNA BUITRON, COSMETIC TATTOO ARTIST: Mm-hmm. For a long time. I feel like I've been looking outside of me for so long, looking outside of me in the sense of friends, in the sense of career, in the sense of business, you know, but I never kind of look inside.

I have this void, these emptiness. I never feel fulfilled, like a puzzle that is missing a piece or maybe even a couple of pieces, you know.


CULVER: Have you ever taken mushrooms?

BUITRON: Um-um. Never.

CULVER: So this will be your first too?

BUITRON: This will be my first time.

JASON MOSS, FEDERAL BANKRUPTCY ATTORNEY: I'm out of town next week, let's have Christian, Christian cover my news.

CULVER: Across the country in Columbia, South Carolina.

J. MOSS: What number am I looking for?

CULVER: Jason Moss, also turning to psilocybin for the first time. On the outside, you see this successful federal bankruptcy attorney, he's charismatic, really engaging, but his addiction, he's kept private. Until now.

J. MOSS: Alcohol is something I've been struggling with for years. I've been lucky it hasn't affected my daily life at work, but I think it has affected my home life. And it's something where I'd like to, instead of having the urge to drink when I get stressed. To have that feeling, hey, I don't want to do that.

And right now, it's difficult to have that out of my system. I would like almost like a fresh start, a fresh start on just rethinking how and why I drink.

FRED BARRETT, ACTING DIRECTOR, JOHNS HOPKINS CTR, FOR PSYCHEDELIC AND CONSCIOUSNESS RESEARCH: There's an awful lot of excitement and an awful lot of hype, built up now around the potential for psychedelics as a new treatment in psychiatry. And a really radically effective treatment. That's the promise, that's the hope, and that's the hype.

There's also a really great potential for something called therapeutic misconception. It's the misconception that because we're studying it, it must work.

CULVER: As research explores the potential benefits of mushrooms, we should remind you, they've been around for a while.

TOM ECKERT, PROGRAM DIRECTOR, INNERTREK: This is an ancient medicine, you know, it has been used for hundreds, if not thousands of years in ceremonial context.

CULVER: This so-called medicine, making a comeback in what some are calling a psychedelic's renaissance, and showing promise in treating multiple conditions like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.

BARRETT: Psychedelic drugs were first discovered by Western society in the '40s and the '50s. And from that point forward, a number of folks around the world began to study these drugs to understand their potential effects on consciousness, to understand the potential therapeutic effects.

CULVER: That was until the late '60s, when a growing counterculture movement, along with a reckless use of psychedelics led to the war on drugs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: America's public enemy number one in the United States is drug abuse.

CULVER: And with that, research on psychedelics halted.

What do you make of the past few decades and how psychedelics have been characterized?

ROBIN CARHART-HARRIS, PROFESSOR OF NEUROLOGY AND PSYCHIATRY, UCSF AND INNERTREK ADVISOR: I just think it was fear, you know, people didn't know enough. And they were very much influenced by the stories that created a kind of alarmist sensationalism around psychedelics.

CULVER: Now, after decades of, quote, prohibition, we're seeing a new wave of research, and it's shifting the narrative.

What do you think overall, though, has less than that fear?

CARHART-HARRIS: Evidence, without question. There being some new evidence now for the safety and potential efficacy of psychedelics and more specifically psychedelic therapy for things like depression, end- of-life distress, addiction.

J. MOSS: It starts actually on Tuesday --

CULVER: Jason, desperately wants to be proof that psilocybin works.

J. MOSS: I was watching a documentary this one gentleman, he was at NYU study, and he took the medicine and he said it was like similar. Just take an antibiotic, took it just one day, and he was better. If it works out something like that, that would be fantastic. And that would be --

PATRICK MOSS, JASON MOSS SON: You got to let it though. It's not going to like guaranteed that's why -- it's like I agree with it, but if you go in there expecting, it's just going to work. And then you have like a craving or a thought. You're going to tell yourself that that just didn't work. Instead of like, it's -- I feel like you got to put in a little bit to it.

J. MOSS: Oh, yes, I think it's going to be with effort.

P. MOSS: But you're -- also, it sounds like you're ready.

CULVER: As Jason and Johanna prepare for what they hope is a life- altering experience, we first take you to the new frontier in psilocybin therapy, Oregon.



CULVER: Soaring over Oregon sprawling coastline, and above its majestic mountains, you might miss the small but mighty mushroom and those hoping to harness its potential. In 2020, Oregon residents voted to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic use, the first state in the U.S. to do so. In January, the law took effect.

CULVER: And you get to decide how big you want the group to be. It requires those who will administer psilocybin or facilitators to be trained and certified.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: During the role plays, there might be some whispering. I want to make sure you can hear everything that's happening.

CULVER: Courses aimed to help facilitators guide others through a range of psychedelic trips.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So like to invite all of us to focus inwardly. We take a couple deep breaths and just notice what's happening inside.

ECKERT: When you're facilitating the group session, it's non- directive. It's not -- it's not talk therapy.

CULVER: The season therapist, Tom Eckert, is with Innertrek, a new company founded to train facilitators in Oregon.

Tom and his late wife played a big role in bringing legalized psilocybin therapy services to the state.

ECKERT: We were the first to bring this idea forward that maybe there's a campaign to bring this into existence.

It passed in Oregon with 55 percent of the vote.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And maybe start to notice your breath. CULVER: Oregon's regulations will require facilitators to administer the doses of psilocybin in licensed service centers, at least a dozen expected to open in the state by the end of the year.

Innertrek plans to open one in Portland. They'll all be required to use mushrooms from licensed labs.

ECKERT: We want to make sure that the products are up to standard and that the doses are standardized so people know what they're getting.

CULVER: For now, it will be pricey and not covered by insurance.

ECKERT: So many mental health issues are based on a kind of rigidity, a stuckness. The psilocybin experience helps kind of break that up.

CARHART-HARRIS: That doesn't mean it could treat everything in psychiatry, but I think it is realistic to think that this could be a breakthrough in mental health care.


CULVER: Sounds promising, but by no means a cure all.

BARRETT: Psychedelics may not be entirely safe for people who have a personal or family history of psychosis. Patients with bipolar disorder may be at great risk of taking psychedelic drugs and having another manic episode.

ECKERT: The risks come in more psychologically, right? Because without support, in some cases, it could be destabilizing.

CULVER: Some medical experts fear it's all moving too quickly in Oregon.

DANIEL NICOLI, LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE CO-CHAIRMAN, OREGON PSYCHIATRIC PHYSICIANS ASSOCIATION: The one thing that does worry me is this trend where we're bypassing the FDA and other safeguards to kind of determine what is the safe medicine? Are we informing people of the risks? Do we even know the risks?

CULVER: Another concern is that facilitators only have to have a high school degree.

ECKERT: Some people come at it from a different angle. And we're not trying to close those people out. We want those people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm thinking about couples who might want to do a session themselves.

CULVER: Seth Mehr is among those that planning to offer psilocybin treatment. He happens to be a former ER doctor.

Was there a point you said to yourself, we should be trying a different courses of treatment or medication?

SETH MEHR, FOUNDER, CASCADE PSYCHEDELIC MEDICINE: I would see the same patients who are getting kind of standard psychiatric medications, therapy, who really are just not being served by the system. It was a personal journey with psychedelics that really made me realize that some of the most powerful medicines were being locked away.

CULVER: What was the path that brought you there?


MEHR: My wife and I, together, were able to participate in an Ayahuasca ceremony. My wife was going through postpartum depression. It was a really difficult time for our family. The experience was life-changing.

CULVER: Dr. Mehr left the ER to open Cascade Psychedelic Medicine in 2021. He started with ketamine, a legal anesthetic that's been used since the '70s. It was approved by the FDA in 2019 to help people with treatment resistant depression.

Dr. Mehr gave me a tour of where he plans to conduct psilocybin treatments.

It feels a little different from what I imagined your ER environment would be.

MEHR: Oh, my gosh, yes.

CULVER: And notice the instruments.

MEHR: I use the gong, the singing bowls. This is called a tongue drum. It's like a hand pan.

CULVER: You use all these?

NEHR: All of them.

CULVER: He showed me his vision for a mushroom therapy session.

MEHR: Let's go ahead and lay this back. Get comfortable with the blanket.

CULVER: This is a doctor's office and experience unlike any I've seen before.

MEHR: I'll just start to kind of slow down your body, start to slow down your mind.

CULVER: Calming and cozy. I was asleep within minutes. No meds needed.

Like Dr. Mehr, Mike Arnold, who founded Silo Wellness and launched its Jamaica Retreat, plans to open a service center in Oregon, much bigger than the one-on-one model.

What is this place?

MIKE ARNOLD, FOUNDER, SILO WELLNESS: So Laurelwood Center is over 150,000 square feet. For our purposes, we'll build to house lecturers from all over the world to come and talk about right living, talk about consciousness, talk about the history of the medicine.

CULVER: Division, bring Jamaica to Oregon, hosting simpler, more affordable psilocybin retreats on the grounds of this former Christian boarding school.

Psilocybin makes us, as you see, a better version of what we are.

ARNOLD: It is a tool to allow us to look at ourselves like as a disinterested third-party observer and have the opportunity to reframe our stories, to tell our stories differently.

CULVER: A tool Dr. Mehr is planning to use as soon as he can.

What if I told you I was going to take psilocybin on camera and go through this experience?

MEHR: Fantastic.


CULVER: Well, you had pause there, as you know, I'm like, shoot. Should I be worried?


MEHR: So you're doing this with -- you bring the crew down?

CULVER: We're all going, yes.

MEHR: Oh, my gosh. You guys all gone to Jamaica? OK. That's amazing. I'm so excited for you.

CULVER: And on camera?

MEHR: That's a twist.


ARNOLD: What are your biggest fears?

CULVER: I think the breaking of my brain is a concern.

ARNOLD: You make a living on that brain.

CULVER: Some days.

ARNOLD: Right.

CULVER: Since it's operating, yes.

BARRETT: We think that one of the ways that psilocybin is working in the brain is by allowing for a period of plasticity, like, imagine heating up some clay so that it can be molded into a different form.

CULVER: You describe a psilocybin experience as shaking the snow globe. What do you mean by that? CARHART-HARRIS: Sometimes, you know, to make progress, you've got to break things down. So there's something about how these compounds like psilocybin stimulate the serotonin system that opens up the mind and the brain to potential change.

CULVER: Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris is going to see if psilocybin physically changes anything in my brain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How's it going in there?

CULVER: All good.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to do some structural scans now.

CARHART-HARRIS: With the cabling scan, we can look at the health of the fibers. We'll see their health before and after your trip to Jamaica.

CULVER: And the trip while in Jamaica. Trip, I guess they'll be doing.

I'm somebody who's kind of always played by the rules on things. Didn't drink before it was legal. And it was an opportunity to try to go back and relive a bit with a bit more hopefully clarity what the past few years were like.

Mic check 1, 2, 3.

I think about the past few years in China and reporting at the start of what was then a mystery illness.

Over here, I've had this backpack for now several weeks.

To have lived in China for the duration of pretty extreme lockdowns.

Morning of leaving Shanghai in the midst of what's been now 50 days in lockdown.

Being away from family, the guilt of missing out on loved one's funerals. So I'm hoping maybe psilocybin will just be a journey in of itself that allows me to process some of that.

I hope by taking mushrooms, I might also better understand Jason and Johanna's mind altering trips. They're allowing us in on something so personal, so private, beginning with the preparation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are we all doing today?

CULVER: In the weeks leading up to our retreat, we all get to know each other over Zoom calls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it's important to talk about synesthesia.

CULVER: We're also tasked with journaling.

Across town in LA, Johanna journaling the questions she wants answered. Can you read a little bit of this?

BUITRON: Yes. So this is my first question. Am I grounded? I don't feel grounded. I think I tend to look at the negative side of life. I want to let go of what is not serving me.

CULVER: Back in South Carolina, Jason's confident that Magic Mushrooms will help him stop drinking.

J.MOSS: Can you get all this stuff printed out?

P. MOSS: It could be nothing if you want it to be or it can be everything, you know, you're really just unlocking doors. I feel like they haven't been unlocked.

J. MOSS: Yes.

P.MOSS: My only fear is that you'll go without doing any soul searching.

J. MOSS: I'm going to. I'm completely open. I'm an open book for this.

P. MOSS: I don't want you to look at it as like, I'm doing this because it's going to make me stop drinking.

J. MOSS: That's the ultimate goal.

CULVER: Nice, huh?


CULVER: We arrived in Jamaica feeling the warm island welcome.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How was the ride? Solomon [ph].



And you stranger?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice to see you again.

CULVER: Sure. I'm here as a journalist, but I'm also a fellow retreat participant taking psilocybin for the first time. With my doctor's sign off, I feel ready. Or so I told myself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to do a little something now.

CULVER: We start with group meetings to open up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is the medicine need to teach me? What is the plant medicine, the mushrooms have that I need to know to be happy, to not be depressed? CULVER: There were also structured meditations.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Relaxing your chest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Palms of our hands together.

CULVER: And scenic yoga. Complete with a musical encore.


CULVER: You slowly realize mushrooms play a pretty small role in this larger therapeutic journey. Most of it is focused on connecting with nature and each other.

As it hits you, do you feel like you can relax yet? Or are you --

BUITRON: Oh, yes.



CULVER: What about you?


J. MOSS: Oh, yes. I was, kind of, relaxed. It's more the excitement of coming, you know.

CULVER: Do you feel excited?

MOSS: Yes, I do.


BUITRON: I have that nervousness of just the unknown.

CULVER: I think about what could happen afterwards, and I know they could have a creative surge, and that sounds amazing. By, like, part of me thinks can it break what I --

MOSS: What you have?

CULVER: Yes. Like, can it mess it up? Do either of you worry about that?

MOSS: I never worry about that because I've seen my friends do it recreationally, and they are perfectly fine.

CULVER (voiceover): We start our second day meeting with Ben Mannix.

BEN MANNIX, VETERAN PSILOCYBIN HOLISTIC THERAPIST: Listen to yourself. What do you feel? What do you feel is right?

CULVER (voiceover): She's the lead facilitators for our retreat, working to assess how much psilocybin we should take. MANNIX: This is part of your journey.

CULVER (voiceover): We also share our intentions going into the journey.

MANNIX: Johanna?

BUITRON: Showing me parts of myself that I don't value right now. Maybe looking for self-worth, but mainly clarity. That would be like my main intention. So, I'm very open to what it brings.

CULVER: Being open to what I encounter in this space. Meeting myself in a childlike state, kind of, seeing what I find there.

MOSS: I know that when I'm going through it, I know what I'm going to be focusing on is trying to find out. So, it's going to be discovery.

CULVER (voiceover): We're given a few hours before the dosing ceremony to catch our breath, soak in the sea, and ready our minds and bodies. When we're ready, we begin with a meditation.

MANNIX: Choose a place, a place that you already know, and this place is going to be your safe place. And just start moving your hands, rubbing your hands, slowly moving your arms, moving your legs, your feet. And when you're ready, slowly you can open your eyes. Ready?

CULVER (voiceover): Ben hands us our doses. No actual mushrooms. The psilocybin already extracted and put in the form of chocolates and capsules.

MANNIX: This is for you.


MANNIX: This is for you.


MANNIX: Enjoy your journey.

CULVER: Thank you.

BUITRON: Thank you.



CULVER (voiceover): It's a slow start and not all that exciting. 15 minutes in --

CULVER: Do you feel anything, Jason?

MOSS: How about you?

CULVER: Nothing. Just relaxed. But that might have been the meditation before.

CULVER (voiceover): A few minutes later --

CULVER: Are you feeling it?

BUITRON: Heart beating.

CULVER: Oh, yes.


CULVER: I feel my face and, like, my jaw.

BUITRON: A little numb?


CULVER (voiceover): 20 minutes after our first dose, one by one we begin to lie down and let the medicine take us into the unknown. Except for some of us, it's a disappointing ride.





CULVER (voiceover): An hour into our first dose of magic mushrooms, and Jason feels normal.

MOSS: I feel pretty much the same.

MANNIX: Do you think that you're trying to resist?

MOSS: No, I'm looking forward. I can't believe I'm the only person out here now.

CULVER (voiceover): Frustrated yet determined, Jason decides to lie down. The eye masks and earplugs supposed to help us delve deeper inside ourselves. Hours passed, and as you can see, I'm restless.

BUITRON: How are you?

CULVER (voiceover): Johanna still feeling the psilocybin but already processing some of her experience.

BUITRON: There is like one side that is like, oh, you need to be perfect. You need to do this. And then the other side that is like, I don't care.

CULVER (voiceover): Jason hardly moving. As it begins to wear off, I feel groggy and tired. I find it difficult to talk.

[20:40:00] CULVER: How are you feeling?

BUITRON: I'm feeling good. I'm still, like, landing.

CULVER: It's funny you said that because I felt like I was in a flight through some of it.

BUITRON: My mind is, like -- going like a thousand miles per hour. I have a lot of ideas. I grab my journal, and I'm like, OK, I need to write. And then when I open my eyes, I'm like, OK. I don't know where to start.

CULVER (voiceover): Hearing about Johanna's journey makes me think mine was not nearly as profound. No visual distortions and certainly no rush of ideas.

CULVER: Oh, my gosh, Johanna, I think I need to go much deeper now. I felt restless and bored.


CULVER: Yes, I felt bored.

CULVER (voiceover): Jason is the last one out, not up for talking.

MOSS: I got to get this mic off me.

CULVER (voiceover): The next day we meet with Daphne White, the retreat's integration specialist. She focuses on helping us apply our psilocybin experiences to our daily lives.

DAPHNE WHITE, RETREAT'S INTEGRATION SPECIALIST: Now, that you've had like a day to reflect, how would you summarize your experience?

BUITRON: I will say it was -- more like a roller coaster.

WHITE: A roller coaster?

BUITRON: Yes. It, kind of, started, like, very soft. Then when you cover your eyes, you kind of go deep.


BUITRON: And it just -- it feels like you're, like, in a movie. Then you just, like, you start running super-fast. And then for sure you feel like your inner voice talking to you.

WHITE: Do you notice that you're seeing things differently or showing up differently just as yourself in the world?

BUITRON: I think it gave me more a peace of mind.


BUITRON: Maybe a trusting in the universe. Something like you got this. You know what you're doing. Answers will come. CULVER: I felt underwhelmed by medicine. It was all on the surface, and it was incredibly physical. It was almost in some, sort of, forced naptime because it was a moment of breathlessness, of childlike boredom.

WHITE: What would I say is coming up for you most when you wake up this morning?

CULVER: The word "more."

WHITE: Just more.

CULVER: I mean, there's just more --


CULVER: -- more to do.

MOSS: I was expecting it to kind of kick in quickly. I didn't have any psychoactive experience.


MOSS: It was -- I guess the only word I can think of is, like, I was a little underwhelmed. I was expecting something pretty profound, and that, of course, didn't happen.

CULVER: We got everybody?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Let's get this show on the road.

BUITRON: Yes, let's go.

CULVER: All right. Let's do it.

CULVER (voiceover): Needing to decompress a bit, we go on a little hike.

CULVER: Where are we going, to the spring?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going to the bat cave and the Bob Marley mineral spring.

CULVER: Maybe I'm just frustrated based on what yesterday was. But I'm not --

MOSS: The buildup of the --

CULVER: Yes, I think there was a lot of buildup. Maybe that's on me, I don't know.

MOSS: I certainly have that. I felt not remarkably disappointed, but I didn't feel that, like --

CULVER: I think I'm just hopeful for the next one.

MOSS: Yes, yes.

CULVER: We'll see.

MOSS: Yes, absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, let's venture in the cave, should we?

CULVER: The bat cave, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The holes are -- those are where the bats go inside on the top there.

BUITRON: You can see them flying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got to be careful. The spring is under the cave. All right. Push off. Let go. Let go. Let go off the rope. Yes, man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, that's just nice.

CULVER: Why did you get into this line of work?

MANNIX: I think because I want to help people.

CULVER (voiceover): On our walk back, Ben reassures me ahead of tomorrow's final dose.

CULVER: I'd be intrigued to see what the second ceremony will do.

MANNIX: Mm-hmm. I'd like to just, like, trust the process.

CULVER: Right.

MANNIX: I say, very -- always, trust the process.

CULVER (voiceover): Going into our fourth day of the retreat.

MOSS: My intentions are, perhaps, just a self-awakening or self- awareness.

CULVER (voiceover): Jason and I prepare to take double our first dose.

CULVER: And I want to see where it takes me.

CULVER (voiceover): I know it seems like a big jump, but I'm good with it, especially with folks like M.J. around. She's a psychiatric nurse who spent years treating patients experiencing negative reactions to psychedelics.

CULVER: One thing I was really worried about was a bad trip, you know.


CULVER: And I think we come with the expectation that maybe it's going to break your brain, you know, or do something that's going to make you regret ever having taken anything here.

DR. MARION JOHNSON, REGISTERED NURSE, SILO WELLNESS: So, that's why the screening process is so vigorous to come in because, you know, obviously there's some diagnoses that we're just not ready to have out here on an island.

CULVER: It's not for everybody.

DR. JOHNSON: It's not for everybody.


DR. JOHNSON: There's a process to make sure it's -- that you're able to come here and safely dose.


DR. JOHNSON: And I will be by your side, and so will Ben.

CULVER (voiceover): Ben grinds the mushrooms into a tea for our final ceremony.

MANNIX: So, you can please stir.

CULVER (voiceover): This time, Jason the first to lie down.

MOSS: Yes, I'm not really feeling that much, but I figure, you know, just getting relaxed.

CULVER (voiceover): I'll see you, guys.

CULVER: One by one, we follow.

CULVER (voiceover): After an hour, still nothing. The facilitators watching on begin to wonder why we're not responding.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to updose him?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you updosing him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We stick to the process. I let go -- the universe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just not seeing an experience. I'm not seeing any responses. I'm seeing people lay around.





CULVER (voiceover): More than an hour in to our second magic mushroom dose, and nothing. Until suddenly everything hits us.

CULVER: Oddly, I get transported to Cuba a lot. And I feel my grandmother's energy.

CULVER (voiceover): The visual distortions you hear about, yes, we're seeing those.

MOSS: It sounds -- check out those palm tree, and it's kind of funny.

CULVER (voiceover): Vivid and vibrant and a bit freaky at times.

MOSS: I mean, I know it's a palm tree, but it's weird. It's kind of blue, it's purple.

BUITRON: I'm here. I'm, like, I have all these things in my head, right? So, it feels good to, like, put them on paper.

CULVER (voiceover): I, too, suddenly sense a creative drive. I need my journal from my room. But I realize I don't have my key.

CULVER: Yes, key, throw it. Key.

CULVER (voiceover): Producer Natalie to the rescue. Back in my bed, I write and write and write, or so it seemed. The effects come in waves. And things get more physical for me. Jason keeps smiling throughout. Maybe that means it's working this time. Tough to tell. The effects start to lessen, and I'm hungry, exhausted, but at ease.

CULVER: Thank you.

DR. JOHNSON: All right. You did a great job.

CULVER (voiceover): The next day, before we all head out, Daphne helps us process our experiences.

CULVER: That was a trip. It's definitely a trip. I did have a moment of thinking, oh, my gosh, I have a profound urge to write. And I remember being so intent on what I was writing. And then reading it now, I mean, it's one line that is, this is a place you return to. You know, it's one thing to have these visions of distortions, but then when I would close my eyes and I would feel touched, I would then feel, like, a shock of energy. It was mostly my grandmother's that came through.


CULVER: And my grandmother died while I was in China, and so I couldn't get back for that.


CULVER: Yes, I think this setting helped a lot because my grandmother's Cuban. And like --


CULVER: Yes. And so, I felt like I was on -- in Havana and like -- all I can say was, it was what I needed.

WHITE: Last day before we head home.

BUITRON: I know, yes.

WHITE: How are you feeling about that part?

BUITRON: I'm feeling pretty confident, like, peaceful, refreshed. And I got the answers that I was looking for. I think this will be, like, a good guide for me to start reshaping my life.

WHITE: How are you today?

MOSS: Feeling fantastic.


MOSS: Absolutely fantastic. It was quite the reboot.

WHITE: Is there anything you want to share, anything you're curious about that came up for you?

MOSS: I was underground, and it was like -- almost like a train station with boxes. Everything was in black and white. And there was a big tunnel where the train was at, and my goal was to get that train into that tunnel.


And I got it going, and then everything crumbled behind it. And immediately everything went to the most brilliant colors you could ever imagine. And it's almost like every stress or thought or negativity went off with that train.

CULVER (voiceover): But the real work begins after the retreat. Back in California, I get the results to compare my before and after MRIs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, the first thing we're going to do is the sound calibration.


CULVER: Dr. Carhart-Harris compared my brain to a study he conducted with people who were also taking psilocybin for the first time.

DR. CARHART-HARRIS: So, we have looked at this cabling in another study when you age into your older years, then those cables start to fray. And we found that went down one month after psilocybin. And it's the opposite of what happens with older aging and pathologies of brain aging.

CULVER: Antiaging?

DR. CARHART-HARRIS: So, it's like an antiaging effect. And we saw that in a group of about 30 people. CULVER (voiceover): Dr. Carhart-Harris is submitting his study to a leading scientific journal for review.

DR. CARHART-HARRIS: Because of all that, we were excited and motivated to do the same analysis on your brain. Are you ready for this? And what we found was in entirely consistent.

CULVER: Oh, my goodness. Wow.

DR. CARHART-HARRIS: So, the brain is certainly intact.

CULVER: Not broken, perhaps even better.


CULVER (voiceover): We showed my results to an independent researcher who saw the same changes Dr. Carhart-Harris detected. While this research is in its early stages, more studies need to be done.

There are a wide range of medical indications that are now being studied with psilocybin. But psilocybin has not led to a therapeutic outcome in everybody who's enrolled in the clinical trial. It's not going to work for everything, and we shouldn't expect it to work for everything.

CULVER (voiceover): While one of the retreat participants said it didn't work for her. Weeks later, in L.A., Johanna, still grateful for her journey.

CULVER: Here we are, now more than a month out.


CULVER: I'm feeling, like, continued at peace. I mean, certain days, it can change.


CULVER: But, like, overall, at peace. What about you?

BUITRON: I'm doing things in my life that bring me more joy, like dancing, like traveling, like being with friends. And those decisions are changing my life.


BUITRON: I'm doing my work a lot better. And when I'm giving everything to my clients, all my clients starts referring, I'm booked for, like, two months.


BUITRON: It's like a reciprocity in a different way.

CULVER: Do you feel like this changed your life?

BUITRON: I think it gave me the push to change my life, for sure.

MOSS: Come on, baby. Do something good. She's strong.

CULVER (voiceover): But perhaps the biggest change we've seen is Jason.

MOSS: That was a big one there. That's really --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, how's it feel being home?

MOSS: It's been good so far. Everything's -- it feels more positive. And --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seems like you're happier to do --

MOSS: Yes, it was just a complete change. It was just immediate. It's the first time in my life I felt like everything really connected. And it's very difficult to describe, but it worked. It worked.

CULVER: How is it coming back there?

MOSS: First of all, I felt better. I felt different.

CULVER: Yes. Your intention going there was for something that you've been dealing with for a long time and struggling with --

MOSS: Correct.

CULVER: -- with alcohol.

MOSS: There's no temptation. There's no thought. There's no thought of using it in a wave that relieve stress or for sexual lubricant. It's just gone.

CULVER: What do you need to do to sustain it?

MOSS: I've thought about that. I'm making these long-term goals. And do I need to get counseling for this? And thus far, no, because it was that quick.

CULVER: When I checked in with you probably a week after, right, you say, as an update, not only has the experience completely diminished and erased any thought of alcohol, but I am experiencing a profound increased cognitive ability. I don't think I've ever felt this industrious and clear minded in my lifetime.

MOSS: That's correct. Absolutely correct. And it's almost, like, every part of your brain, all of a sudden, just started working together in a different way, in a different fashion. That's the mindset. It's as if I've never ever drank before. And I thought of, it's not even there. That is remarkable to me. An absolute gift. And a life-changer. Absolute life-changer.


COOPER: We recently checked back in with Jason, who tells us he still hasn't had a drink since he attended the retreat in Jamaica two months ago.