There is good news for cancer patients who are battling depression and fear of death. According to a new study, a panacea has been found in psilocybin — a vital ingredient in magic mushrooms.
The power of the hallucinogen curing the existential worries was revealed in two different studies published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
It was reinforced that the treatment has been helpful in treating many patients who were in "the sickness unto death."
The studies explained how cancer subjects who were in advanced stages of the disease and were in depression responded with relief and peace after the dosages. Most of the subjects who took the hallucinogen were hopeless, demoralized and had suicidal thoughts.
Calling the results "rapid, robust, and sustained" the authors said there was relief among the patients who were in "existential distress" of anxiety and fear.
New York University Study
In the New York University study, researchers broke the 29 subjects into two groups and each group was given a dose of 0.3 milligrams of psilocybin per kg of body weight. Vitamin niacin was given to the second group.
Then, after a few weeks, each group was given the opposite substance. Referring to the conditions of patients, co-author Stephen Ross, of NYU's psychiatry department, said existential distress is more than psychologically uncomfortable,
Single doses gave good relief and eased depression for more than seven weeks to eight months. The authors called the step a "pharmacological finding."
At Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, doctors divided cancer patients into two groups of 51 patients and gave them a low dose of psilocybin in the first phase and a bigger dose after five weeks.
Inferences From Studies
Both studies showed "psilocybin produced large and significant decreases" in anxiety and depression and increased life's meaning, death acceptance and optimism.
Many reported a great sense of peace and a new meaning from the experience even years later.
Roland Griffiths, lead author of the study and professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins stressed the positive effects of the psilocybin treatment.
"The finding that a single administration of a relatively short-acting drug has rapid substantial and enduring anti-depressant and anti-anxiety effects is really unprecedented," he said.
Testimonials Of Cancer Patients
Many cancer patients who were part of the treatment acknowledged their relief from the psilocybin therapy.
Brooklyn resident Dinah Bazerm, aged 69, who participated in the NYU study was down with ovarian cancer in 2010. She has had a successful surgery yet anxiety and fear of cancer coming back haunted her.
"It was running my life and ruining my life," Bazerm she said and added that the "drug saved my life."
Meanwhile, Dr. George Greer, director of the Heffter Research Institute called the results "groundbreaking."
His nonprofit organization funded the two trials.
According to Greer, "existential anxiety" is one of the many conditions that psilocybin may treat. He said the scope for treating obsessive-compulsive disorder, addiction to alcohol or drugs and even "demoralization" among survivors of HIV is open now.