Active ingredient ‘reduces anxiety and depression’
Hearing a doctor utter the ‘C’ word – cancer – is a diagnosis each and every person dreads.
The disease can consume a patient’s life, leaving them in a constant state of fear. While trying to take in the enormity of their diagnosis, they will inevitably face gruelling medical treatment. As a result it is unsurprising that cancer patients often suffer with depression and anxiety at the same time.
But, rather than seek help on a therapist’s couch, a new study suggests that people living through the turmoil of cancer could relieve their mental health problems by taking magic mushrooms.
A single dose of psilocybin – the major hallucinogenic compound in magic mushrooms – helps ease the symptoms of depression and anxiety, for at least six months, researchers found.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine investigated the effects of psilocybin on individuals diagnosed with life-threatening cancer.
The study included 51 patients with a cancer diagnosis who were also suffering from anxiety or depression.
The patients received a dose of psilocybin as part of the study.
A randomized sample of the participants received a very low dose of 1 or 3 mg/70 kg.
Others received a ‘moderate-high’ dose of 22 or 30 mg/70 kg – each of which were ‘sufficiently high to induce changes in perception and mystical-type experiences’.
Participants who received the high doses showed ‘substantially greater effects including perceptual changes, mystical-type subjective experiences and labile mood’ on session days. Furthermore, five weeks later, those patients reported lower levels of anxiety and depression compared to patients that received a low dose of the drug.
The study said: ‘The participants attributed significantly greater positive changes in attitudes about life/self, positive social effects, and positive behavior changes to the experience.
‘A higher percentage reported the experience to be among the five most personally meaningful of their lives.’
The positive effects on their moods were still apparent in the patients at a six-month follow up.
The idea that hallucinogenic drugs – including LSD – may alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression in cancer patients has been longstanding.
Reports from the 1960s and 1970s suggest that the drugs could help change the moods of these patients.
However, the clinical value of hallucinogenic drugs to treat mood disturbances in cancer patients remained unclear – until now.
The researchers suggest that a carefully screened single doses of psilocybin be given to patients suffering from anxiety and depression under supportive conditions.
The single dose ‘may be sufficient to produce enduring decreases in negative moods in patients with life-threatening cancer’.
The research was led by Dr Roland Griffiths, professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences, as well as neuroscience, at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Campus.
The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology.
Written by Lisa Ryan for The Daily Mail ~ December 15, 2015.
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