CHICAGO - A traumatic brain injury left a champion Chicago Blackhawks player with a life he wanted to escape. When his thoughts turned to suicide, he got the help he needed in an unlikely place: magic mushrooms.
The psychedelic drug is being studied for its power to fix what couldn't be fixed before. Daniel Carcillo says it saved his life.
On the ice, he was known as the "car bomb." Now, he is igniting new research on traumatic brain injury.
"You have all these stories coming out about guys who are passing away, taking their own lives, shooting themselves in their chest to save their brain," Carcillo said.
After receiving his seventh diagnosed concussion in 2015, the two-time Stanley Cup champion forced himself to retire from hockey.
"I was dealing with things like light sensitivity, slurred speech, balance issues, impulse control issues, insomnia, anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, brain fog, brain fatigue, headaches, head pressure, migraine," Carcillo said.
He says he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to make it all stop.
"When I found that after four years nothing was really working, it sent me in to a deep depression and then I started to make plans to take my own life," Carcillo said.
Then, a divine intervention. A hockey buddy turned him on to magic mushrooms. The psychedelic suggestion worked.
"It did save my life and people are now turning to this as a last ditch effort," Carcillo said.
The hallucinogenic compound in the mushrooms, called psilocybin, has been shown to re-wire the brain. Carcillo co-founded the company Wesana Health to prove the drug's treatment of traumatic brain injury, when taken with psychotherapy.
Here's how it works.
"Certain areas of the brain have been damaged and are almost walled off from other parts of the brain," said Wesana Chief Scientific Officer Mark Wingertzahn. "Psilocybin is able to restore brain cells and enhance connectivity, almost build new roads if you will, in the brain to allow the damaged part of the brain to reconnect with the other parts of the brain that are fully functional."
A Johns Hopkins University study found psilocybin reduced and even eliminated symptoms of depression. NYU is conducting research on its ability to cure alcohol dependence and alleviate anxiety in terminal cancer patients.
"It's not only helping me, but helping veterans, we've got some women of domestic violence who are on this, got some older age population, obviously got a lot of athletes," Carcillo said.
Carcillo says his company plans to meet with the Food and Drug Administration late this year to layout plans for an official trial. In as early as four years, the treatment could be widely available.
If you or a loved one is feeling distressed, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The crisis center provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to civilians and veterans. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (tel:18002738255). Or text HOME to 741-741 (Crisis Text Line)
CLICK HERE for the warning signs and risk factors of suicide. Call 1-800-273-TALK for free and confidential emotional support.