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Oregon’s first psilocybin client: 5 Questions for retired home builder Jim Carroccio
Carroccio, thought to be the first person to receive psilocybin under Oregon’s new system, discusses his psilocybin experience.
In November 2020, Oregon voters passed Measure 109, a ballot initiative to create state-legal access to psilocybin services. For two years, Oregon Psilocybin Services worked with an advisory board to establish rules and regulations for psilocybin, and this year, the agency began licensing psilocybin manufacturers, service centers, testing labs, and facilitators. In mid-July 2023, The Microdose broke the news that a client in Bend, Oregon had undergone a guided psilocybin session through the non-profit Bendable Therapy.
That person is Jim Carroccio, a 71-year-old retired home builder who lives in Phoenix, Arizona. He is thought to be the first person to receive psilocybin under Oregon’s new system. He drove to Oregon in an Airstream trailer with his wife to receive treatment. The Microdose spoke with him about his psilocybin experience.
How did you get interested in taking psychedelics?
Prior to this, I had no experience with psychedelics. I was certainly of the age and of the generation that did psychedelics, but I wasn’t a participant in that. A couple years ago, psilocybin came onto my radar again when I read an article about it. I started doing research; I found Michael Pollan’s book and read it cover to cover. After years of cognitive therapy for obsessive-compulsive disorder, the same old bell was ringing; the therapy didn't give me the answers nor the peace I was looking for. More importantly, I’m 71, and I wanted a refreshed view on life.
I had looked at going to Jamaica or Costa Rica, but then I learned that Oregon had voted to pass Measure 109. I was very attentive to the process and kept checking the state’s website. Eventually I learned that there would be a facilitator center open in Bend, Oregon — I was familiar with the area because I used to live there. We live in Phoenix now, but we still vacation up here in the summer. I kept searching, and finally, I found Bendable Therapy’s website, but at that time, there wasn’t an address; you just put in your email address and waited. Three or four months later, I was about to go to sleep and I saw that they’d written to me saying they were opening up applications, so I went into the other room and immediately filled it out.
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What did that online application entail, and what else did you have to do leading up to your session?
It took about an hour to fill out. They asked about your health — everything from the medications you’re taking to psychological disorders, whether you’ve been diagnosed with schizophrenia or depression. I was really honest and forthcoming about the OCD and traumatization I had as a child.
A couple weeks later, I heard back from Bendable, and met with people from their team countless times on Zoom, and we really elaborated on all that. They really know the story of me. I was also required by the state to fill out a lot of paperwork, and the day before my appointment, I went in to see the facility and meet with my facilitators.
What was your actual session like?
I had no idea what to expect. All I had loaded with me was intention: my intention was to do the work I needed to do. At 14, my life changed when I came home and found my dad dead; he died of a heart attack. After that I developed obsessive compulsive disorder. I could forget what happened when I felt I could control everything.
The day of the session, they gave me three packages of psilocybin mushrooms from Satori Farms. I took around 30 milligrams to start. Within 15 minutes, I was very comfortable on the cot I was laying on. Gravity was losing its effect on me. My facilitator, Josh, asked if he could put a blanket on me; it was soft and cushy, and had just a bit of weight to it. I was wearing a blindfold, and felt very calm. I was just practicing my breathing. I turned to Josh and said, “I’m sinking into the mattress.” I know this because they gave me a recording of the whole event, and I relistened to it. At around the 20 minute mark, I was still capable of speaking human words and I mentioned to Josh that it was wonderful. Josh asked, “What’s wonderful?” And I said, “I don’t have to breathe any more.” The pull of earth just let me go.
I went back to my intention, and I focused one at a time on releasing the depth of grief I had from my father, my mother, my brother, even my golden retriever. Every time I would focus on one, I would get into this incredible sorrow and grief, and I could feel the presence, the physical form, of whoever I was intending to reconcile with. With my father, I felt this incredible love. It felt like my heart was going to burst from holding it all in.
About two and a half or three hours in, I took a booster. At no point through the six hours did I feel anything but love or joy, except for the time I needed to deal with the grief. I felt like I was able to revisit that grief to make sure that every drip was out of my soul. There are sensations and feelings I can’t describe, but that I’ll never forget. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, but I can’t say what it was; it’s like trying to grab smoke. And being OCD, I now don’t need to wash the camper, I don’t need to shake the rugs, I just don’t care. My brain is on a slow flow right now, and nothing is agitating me. Thirty years of cognitive therapy didn’t do what six hours of psilocybin did.
There have been concerns that psilocybin services are prohibitively expensive for many people. How did payment work for you?
When we had gotten all the way through the process and [Bendable Therapy CEO] Amanda said let’s work with your schedule, there had still been no mention of payment. I thought I’d just go in the day-of and write a check. But then she asked, Would you like to make a donation? Basically, they offer this service to people with no means, and they have a suggested donation. They’re a non-profit and they put the trust back in you.
When I was looking at Jamaica or Costa Rica, those retreats cost anywhere between $7,000 and $10,000. I actually saw the cost of the psilocybin on some state forms I had to fill out; it was less than $1,000 for three packs of 12.5 milligram mushrooms. Those were zeroed out with my donation, but if they were billing for the amount of time they put into my session — let’s say at $100 an hour — you would easily have a $10,000 bill.
How does it feel knowing you’re likely the first person to receive psilocybin through Oregon’s program?
Three days after my session, Josh and I met for my integration session and just shared the love with each other, and he gave me a lot of insight into keeping my focus on what I’d learned. And he said, “Congratulations — you’re the first with us, and we believe you are the first in Oregon, which makes you maybe the first legal person in this entire country.” When I first heard that, I just wept. It’s so profound to be the first. I got overwhelmed; it was like a gift. Why me? But why not?
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.