A single dose of psilocybin, the active principle of psychedelic fungi, can cure anxiety and depression suffered by people with advanced stage cancer six months ahead. Two new studies show this. The researchers involved in the two US studies argue that the results are more than satisfactory.
The volunteers who participated in the research, in fact, had “significant and spiritual experiences” that made them think back to life and death and helped them end the sense of despair they felt and had a lasting improvement in the quality of their lives.
Research findings are published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology along with not less than ten commentaries by scientists in the field of psychiatry and palliative care that support research results.
While the effects of magic fungi have been the subject of psychiatry since 1950. The classification of all psychedelic substances in the United States in the 1970s in the wake of the Vietnam War and the increase in the consumption of drugs for recreational use in hippie culture has created many legal and financial obstacles to the advancement of research in this regard.
About 40-50% of newly diagnosed cancer patients suffer from some kind of depression or anxiety. Antidepressants have little effect, especially on the “existential” depression that can bring people involved to have the impression that their lives are meaningless until they contemplate the hypothesis of suicide.
The major findings of the New York University study involving 29 patients and the largest of Johns Hopkins University with 51 patients have shown that a single dose of the drug can lead to immediate reduction of depression and anxiety caused by cancer and that the effect can last up to eight months. “An unprecedented result,” said Ross. “We’ve never seen anything like this.”
The results of the studies are very similar, with approximately 80% of patients who attribute a significant improvement in living conditions and a re-found well-being to taking a single dose of the proposed drug in combination with a psychotherapy course.
Professor Roland Griffiths of the Department of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, who led the study at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine, said he did not expect these results, which he described as incredible. “I was skeptical at the outset that this drug could have produced lasting changes,” he said. These were people “facing the deeper existential questions that humans may encounter – what is the nature of life and death, the sense of life.”
But the results were similar to those they had found in previous studies on healthy volunteers. “In spite of their vulnerability, these participants have the same kind of experience,” he said. Patients describe experiences as “reorganizing,” said Griffiths.
Ross said that psilocybin activates a serotonin receptor subtype in the brain. “Our brains are wired to have this type of experience – these alterations to consciousness. We have endogenous chemical products in our brain. We have a small system that, when stressed, produces these altered states that have been described as spiritual states, mystical states in different religions.
“People feel that the separation between the personal I and the outside world dissolves and they feel that part of the energy or consciousness in the universe. Patients feel transported to a different dimension of reality as a kind of dream with open eyes”.