Studies from major institutions show that psilocybin, a compound within “magic mushrooms”, is effective in treating depression and anxiety in cancer patients.
Understandably, about 40% of all cancer patients are afflicted by psychological issues related to their illness.
The studies showed around 80% of the cancer patients showed notable improvements after just one dose. They sustained the psychological gains for up to seven months. Patients reported improvements in their quality of life, having more energy, going out more and having better relationships with family members.
The studies also showed a positive correlation between strength of “trip” reported and gains in alleviating their depression and anxiety.
The New York Times reported Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, a former president of the American Psychiatric Association and Dr. Daniel Shalev from the New York State Psychiatric Institute, who wrote that the studies are ”a model for revisiting criminalized compounds of interest in a safe, ethical way.”
The lead author of the Johns Hopkins study, psychiatrist Dr. Roland Griffiths, was optimistic and saw the treatment as a new model rather than falling into a current treatment style for psychiatric issues.
“I really don’t think we have any models in psychiatry that look like” the effects demonstrated in the two trials, said Griffiths. “Something occurs and it’s repaired and it’s better going forward … very plausibly for more than six months,” he added. “In that sense it’s a new model.”
One of the participants in the study, Sherry Marcy, described her positive experience:
“The cloud of doom seemed to just lift… I got back in touch with my family and kids, and my wonder at life,” said Marcy, whose been battling cancer from 2010. “Before, I was sitting alone at home, and I couldn’t move … This study made a huge difference, and it’s persisted.”
Big Think gives the details of the study:
The particulars of both studies involved randomly offering patients either psilocybin or a placebo at the first session, and then giving them the opposite treatment seven weeks later. This way all participants eventually took psilocybin. In both studies, the success rate of psilocybin versus the placebo was very clear, with 83% getting better on psilocybin and only 14% on the placebo in the NYU study.
Psilocybin, of course, have been banned in the U.S. for over 40 years. While they were allowed to use it for their studies, the scientists warn against self-medicating depression by taking “magic mushrooms”. They caution that professionals are needed to control the dosage and provide a supportive environment in which to experience the drug’s effects. The psilocybin therapy may also not be appropriate for people with schizophrenia or young adults.
To move forward in this field, Dr. Shalev and Dr. Lieberman see a need to loosen research restrictions, because “there is much potential for new scientific insights and clinical applications.” Ideally, the next step would be a trial with a larger sample, perhaps across several centers with hundreds of subjects.
We look forward to more research, hopefully not just with cancer patients, but with expended groups suffering different psychiatric ailments for various reasons. An 80% success rate is amazing and should be enough evidence to support larger.
(Article By Jeremiah Jones)