Magic Mushrooms Cure Comic's OCD
Adam Strauss' 'Varieties of Religious Experience.'

by Ted Merwin
Special To The Jewish Week

With its multiplicity of rituals and its insistence on punctilious 
observance, Judaism is often jokingly referred to as a religion for 
obsessive-compulsives. Now comes <>Adam 
Strauss' one-man show, "Varieties of Religious Experience," which 
details the Jewish stand-up comedian's struggles with real OCD, his 
last-ditch effort to cure it with psychedelic mushrooms, and his 
ultimate discovery of spiritual enlightenment.

When the show ran last summer at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Kate 
Copstick of The Scotsman called it "storytelling of the highest order 
... fascinating, gripping, personal stuff." It runs this weekend at 
the Frigid Festival in the East Village.

Directed by the playwright, "Varieties of Religious Experience," the 
title of which is borrowed from the classic philosophical text by 
William James, traces Strauss' struggles with a case of OCD that made 
the most basic decisions, such as what shirt to put on in the 
morning, or what bagel to eat for breakfast, feel freighted with the 
potential for catastrophe if he chose incorrectly.

Strauss, who grew up in a Reform Jewish family in the Boston suburb 
of Newton, told The Jewish Week that even as a boy he was "filled 
with longing, seeking the answer to a question that I didn't even 
know." His Bible, so to speak, was the Sharper Image Catalog, where a 
glow in the dark snorkeling set or a short wave radio held out the 
promise of "fulfilling or completing" his existence. Beginning in 
junior high school, he started lifting weights, then turned to music, 
and then to Zen Buddhism as each failed to bring him the perfection 
that he sought.

When, in his late 20s, he was finally diagnosed with OCD, Strauss 
tried medication, yoga, psychotherapy and acupuncture -- none of 
which had any effect on his debilitating condition. Only when he met 
a clinical psychologist who claimed to have cured her own depression 
through the use of hallucinogenic drugs, did he discover that 
psilocybin, the active ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms, could 
also help to tame his OCD and set him on a healthier path.

OCD is the fourth most common psychiatric disorder in the U.S. -- 
less common than only phobias, depression and alcoholism. Like 
depression, it has been shown in many recent studies to respond to 
psilocybin, although the use of illegal drugs to treat any illness, 
physical or mental, remains highly controversial.

But Strauss says that the magic mushrooms were helpful in that they 
"opened me up to a willingness to bow to a greater force," and 
ultimately to enter a 12-step program for OCD sufferers. And while he 
still describes himself as a secular Jew, Strauss concedes that the 
way that things have worked out for him "itself inspires wonder ... 
and for me wonder is really the soil from which whatever faith I do 
have grows."

With his OCD now mostly under control, Strauss said that one form of 
compulsion still remains alive for him. "I feel compelled to share 
this story," he said, "and incredibly gratified to perform it."

"Varieties of Religious Experience" will be performed at The Red 
Room, 85 E. Fourth St. Performances are Friday, March 1 at 7:40 p.m. 
and Sunday, March 3 at 4:45 p.m. For tickets, $15 ($9 for students, 
seniors and military), call SmartTix at (212) 868-4444 or visit 

<mailto:[log in to unmask]>[log in to unmask]

Ring the bells that still can ring,  Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack, a crack in everything, That's how the light gets in.
~ Leonard Cohen