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Just One Dose Of This Magic Mushroom Drug Eases Depression Among Cancer Patients

First Posted: Dec 02, 2016 03:20 AM EST
Mushroom
A banned substance from magic mushrooms could help reduce depression and anxiety among cancer patients.
(Photo : Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Scientists have shown that a banned psychedelic substance, psilocybin, found in mind-altering "magic mushrooms" reduces depression and anxiety among cancer patients.

Psilocybin has been illegal in the United States for more than four decades. However, for the participants who were part of the trial, the substance combined with psychotherapy improved their quality of life by promoting feelings of well-being and reducing their anxiety and depression.

People with late-stage cancer often develop chronic symptoms of depression and anxiety. Though they are often given antidepressants, these appeared to be of little help. However, some small studies have linked the efficacy of the "magic mushroom" compound as an alternative treatment for these psychological disorders.

Published in the The Journal of Psychopharmacology, the study involved two trials: one conducted at New York University and the other at Johns Hopkins University that involved 29 and 51 patients, respectively.

The two trials followed the same protocols and both found that after being given psilocybin, 80 percent of the cancer patients experienced significant reductions in both psychological disorders that lasted for six months or more, Newsweek reports.

"The most interesting and remarkable finding is that a single dose of psilocybin, which lasts four to six hours, produced enduring decreases in depression and anxiety symptoms, and this may represent a fascinating new model for treating some psychiatric conditions," Roland Griffiths, professor of behavioral biology in the Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a press release.

According to the researchers, no long-term negative effects have been observed in any patients. A few of the participants faced short-lived nausea and headaches, while one fifth to one quarter experienced residual anxiety.

"Before beginning the study, it wasn't clear to me that this treatment would be helpful, since cancer patients may experience profound hopelessness in response to their diagnosis, which is often followed by multiple surgeries and prolonged chemotherapy," Griffiths explained.

"I could imagine that cancer patients would receive psilocybin, look into the existential void and come out even more fearful. However, the positive changes in attitudes, moods and behavior that we documented in healthy volunteers were replicated in cancer patients," he added.

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