“OCD is a devastating mental illness and to say ‘I’m a little bit OCD’ would be the equivalent to saying ‘I’m a little bit cancerous’.
“You just wouldn’t say that,” said Nick, who has tried many treatments but has found most to be ineffective.
When Sam Crilly first had these thoughts, she thought she was going crazy.
Jordan Rapaport avoids telling people because they just do not understand.
Although these three have led very different lives, they are all linked by their shared experience of suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) at some point.
The variation in their experiences tells us two things.
First, that OCD is massively misunderstood. It is not just about hand-washing or cleaning. OCD exhibits itself in different ways.
Sam’s OCD means she struggles to be around certain food types. Jordan had ruminations. Nick mentioned that some OCD sufferers create false memories and then spend hours obsessing over their memories that never happened.
“People have misunderstood OCD and see it as a character flaw,” explains Jordan. “The way it has become used as an adjective is frustrating for people who do have actual OCD.
“It trivialises it and makes it seem like something which is quirky and annoying when in reality it is a serious mental health illness.”
Second, that the variation in how people suffer is mirrored in the variation of how people respond to OCD treatments.
According to a report in the World Journal of Psychiatry, even when people receive the OCD treatments that are labelled as effective, their OCD is not actually treated.
While existing treatments work for some, others are left questioning how they can recover from this debilitating condition.
Nick asked himself that same question three years ago, sparking the idea of founding a charity which would fund research into alternative OCD treatments. With that, Orchard OCD was formed.
Last year, Orchard OCD ran a global call for research proposals that could develop new treatments. The project chosen was Professor David Nutt’s psilocybin project. Psilocybin is the active ingredient in magic mushrooms.
Jordan, 38, who works as a ward clerk at St Barts hospital, has now recovered from his OCD but explains that he supports Orchard OCD’s psilocybin campaign because he recognises that he is one of the lucky ones that found treatment.
He said treatment for OCD is very much a postcode lottery on the NHS and that he had to spend a lot of money on his own treatment.
The charity ran a crowd-funding campaign in the summer which raised £120,000.
Thanks to this campaign, the psilocybin research is able to go ahead and the study is set to start in February.
Psilocybin’s effectiveness has already been shown by research conducted in 2006 in the US but this research was never taken further. The study’s lead researcher commented that this block in the road was due to the stigmatisation of psychedelic drugs.
In the UK, magic mushrooms are a class A drug and under Section 1 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations legislation which means psilocybin is subject to the tightest regulation.
Professor Nutt explained that he finds the restrictions frustrating especially because “they were brought in under the false pretence that psilocybin is a dangerous and addictive drug when it is not.” He added that the restrictions make it difficult and costly for researchers to access psilocybin.
The House of Commons Science and Technology committee described UK drug law as “arbitrary”, “unscientific,” “unethical” and “based upon the false assumptions underlying historical prohibition of specific drugs,” in a 2006 report.
In 2009 Professor Nutt himself was fired as the government’s chief drug adviser for outlining research that showed that psychedelics are far less dangerous than alcohol.
Sam, 29, who is an author and is now in control of her OCD, said: “It’s easy if you haven’t been there to say that using magic mushrooms to treat something is ridiculous.
“However, if you are in that situation, and you’re desperate, and everything else isn’t working and there is this glimmer of hope, of course you are going to take it.”
Sam and her twin sister Charlotte set up a YouTube channel to openly discuss mental health. Charlotte echoed her sister saying that she would support any possibility there was for Sam to improve and live a better quality of life.
Orchard OCD is hopeful that Professor Nutt’s study will lead to a larger one being conducted that will prove psilocybin to be an effective treatment for OCD.
Nick hopes that psilocybin will then receive regulatory approval so that it can be prescribed to OCD sufferers.
The government’s track record with psychedelic drugs would suggest there may be many blocks in the road to achieving Nick’s hope.