Greg Rea had his first experience with psychedelics when he was 56 years old. Up until then, he’d been a Reno police officer on SWAT for 12 years before retiring from the force to become a pastor and then a real estate investor.
“I retired a couple years ago, but I still was a pretty tightly wound guy,” Rea tells the Weekly in a phone interview. “And I had a seven-days-a-week drinking problem.”
Rea says that despite having a “pretty good life,” like many first responders, alcohol use was adversely affecting him—until about three years ago, when a friend invited him to a group psychedelic experience.
During that experience, which comprised several sessions, a combination of psilocybin [the drug in “magic” mushrooms] and MDMA [aka ecstasy or Molly]took Rea back to two “fairly violent, critical incidents” in which he was involved as a SWAT officer. The intense, emotional trip led to a breakthrough, he says.
“I realized I had some form of PTSD connected to those things,” Rea says. “And I had no idea I’d carried it for almost 20 years.”
After group sessions with other first responders, he began to find a community to talk about mental health—“inner world things” that the wider community might misunderstand. “First responders are exposed to an inordinate amount of human suffering [that] the typical citizen isn’t. So, we said, why don’t we start our own group?”
In the group, firefighters, first responders and current and former military service members are opening up and “finding their healing with psychedelic medicine,” he says. “And I’m free from my seven-days-a-week alcohol habit. My life is just inordinately better. And my relationships are better.”
Rea was one of many who gave public comment during a March 23 hearing for Senate Bill 242 (SB242).
In his testimony, Assemblyman Max Carter said that his therapy with ketamine, the only drug currently legal for psychedelic therapy, has been “transformational” in his mental health and struggle with chronic depression.
“Psilocybin, studies show, is much more powerful. Where I’ve gone through eight or nine ketamine sessions, [it] probably would have been one or two [sessions], if psilocybin was legal,” Carter said, adding that, based on studies, the effects of psilocybin appear to be longer lasting than ketamine.
The bill would establish a framework for research of psilocybin in the state and, if passed as amended, decriminalize possession of the substance, currently listed as a Schedule 1 drug.