New Studies Find Psilocybin Can Help Cancer Patients Deal with Fear of Death
Scientists are studying the mystical experience brought on by psychedelics for the betterment of society.
Published on December 4, 2016

Scientists are beginning to explore the healing potential of psychedelic drugs like psilocybin, LSD, ketamine, and MDMA after decades of being banned from acquiring these illegal drugs for research purposes. A new study published in the Journal of Pharmacology concluded that just a single dose of psilocybin, the main ingredient in magic mushrooms, taken in conjunction with psychotherapy, reduced depression and anxiety in patients with advanced forms of cancer.

The study, conducted by the NYU Langone Medical Center, found that one single dose of psilocybin brought emotional relief to patients, a positive effect that lasted over six months in 80 percent of the subjects. “Our results represent the strongest evidence to date of a clinical benefit from psilocybin therapy, with the potential to transform care for patients with cancer-related psychological distress,” Stephen Ross, who led the NYU Langone study, said. “If larger clinical trials prove successful, then we could ultimately have available a safe, effective, and inexpensive medication—dispensed under strict control—to alleviate the distress that increases suicide rates among cancer patients.”

A similar study was undertaken by researchers at Johns Hopkins, who also found that a single dose of psilocybin significantly reduced cancer patients' depression. Roland Griffiths, who has been leading research into psilocybin at Johns Hopkins since 1999, said that “the psilocybin experience enables a sense of deeper meaning, and an understanding that in the largest frame everything is fine and that there is nothing to be fearful of.”

Griffiths believes that research into the mystical experiences brought on by psychedelics have value even beyond the treatment of depression. “Science is going to take it beyond psychedelics when we start understanding the brain mechanisms underlying this and begin harnessing these for the benefit of humankind,” he explained.

“The core mystical experience is one of the interconnectedness of all people and things, the awareness that we are all in this together. It is precisely the lack of this sense of mutual caretaking that puts our species at risk right now, with climate change and the development of weaponry that can destroy life on the planet. So the answer is not that everybody needs to take psychedelics. It is to understand what mechanisms maximize these kinds of experiences, and to learn how to harness them so that we don’t end up annihilating ourselves.”


Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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