WW presents "Distant Voices," a daily video interview for the era of social distancing. Our reporters are asking Portlanders what they're doing during quarantine.
Chad Kuske admits he's not entirely comfortable being a spokesperson for Oregon's psilocybin therapy movement. But he's more than willing to assume the role—because after years of seeking treatment for PTSD, it's the only thing he's found that worked.
Kuske, 39, makes a convincing spokesperson, mostly because he doesn't fit the profile of someone who'd find relief from trauma in hallucinogenic mushrooms.
A former Navy SEAL, he spent almost 20 years touring the world, from Africa and South America to Iraq and Afghanistan. When he retired in 2017 and returned to Portland, where he grew up, the stress and adrenaline that elevated him to an elite level in the armed forces had made readjusting to civilian life a struggle.
He was anxious, depressed and "angry all the time," and while the VA tried to help, nothing clicked: He even considered meditation too "woo-woo" for him.
About a year ago, a fellow SEAL suggested that mushrooms might help.
"After my first experience, I felt like a rucksack that I'd been carrying the last 30 years of my life, just putting rock after rock in that rucksack, I came out of the session and it was gone," he says. "I physically felt so much lighter and so much more at ease."
He's continued going to treatments, once every three months, and has since met at least 80 veterans who do the same. He's hesitant to give too many details, though: Psilocybin therapy isn't legal anywhere in the United States. Right now, finding facilitators to assist with the experience—which Kuske stresses is far different than, say, tripping out at a music festival—is entirely word-of-mouth.
That's why Kuske is lending his voice to support Ballot Measure 109, which would make Oregon the first state in the country to legalize the practice. In a conversation with WW editor and publisher Mark Zusman, Kuske discusses exactly how psilocybin therapy changed his life—and potentially saved it.
See more Distant Voices interviews here.