Psychedelic Mushrooms Ease Anxiety for Cancer Patients

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A new study shows that psychedelic mushrooms ease anxiety for cancer patients. Late stage cancer patients given a moderate dose of psilocybin, a hallucinogen with effects similar to LSD, were measurably less depressed six months after a single dose compared with a placebo. Patients seemed somewhat less anxious.

Psilocybin study looks at the relation between cancer and anxiety.

Charles Grob from Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, California, and colleagues, enrolled 12 people with advanced-stage cancer who were also diagnosed with anxiety. The participants took a low dose of psilocybin, while under the supervision of trained therapists. The team discovered that those who took the psilocybin had less anxiety and depression.

Researchers discovered that the "high" from using magic mushrooms is mild and may cause altered feelings and distorted perceptions of touch, sight, sound and taste.

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Psilocybin has been studied as an experimental treatment for a number of disorders including obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD. In addition to anxiety and mood, the psychedelic drug can also ease the pain induced by cluster headaches.

Psilocybin is a hallucinogen with some effects similar to those of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), but its effects are considered to be more visual and euphoric, as well as less emotionally intense and less likely to cause panic reactions and paranoia. From the late 1950s to the 1970s, drugs such as psilocybin were studied as possible treatments for what the researchers called "the existential anxiety, despair, and isolation often associated with advanced-stage cancer."

In many cases, critically ill people had "psychospiritual epiphanies, often with powerful and sustained improvement in mood and anxiety as well as diminished need for narcotic pain medication," the researchers wrote.

"These results support the need for more research in this long-neglected field," Grob and colleagues concluded. They cautioned that, despite efforts at blinding, the drug order was "almost always apparent" to both patients and investigators. Future studies, they wrote, will need to find ways to improve blinding techniques. The investigators also noted that variability in the number and intensity of contact with patients was another study limitation.

The authors concluded that administering moderate doses of psilocybin to patients with advanced-stage cancer and anxiety helps reduce anxiety and improve mood.

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