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It’s indisputable that cancer, especially when terminal, causes deep emotional pain. This pain is often hard to cope with and hard to treat. Recently, some scientists and doctors have been relying on the use of a familiar but unconventional drug to treat emotional pain: “magic mushrooms.”

A new article published by Newsweek details a patient named Dinah Bazer, who, after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2010, was given a dosage of psilocybin, the main chemical ingredient in recreational mushrooms. The anxiety soon disappeared, and four years later, it still hasn’t returned.

Bazer’s case wasn’t unique at all. Two long-awaited studies were recently published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. The first study at New York University (NYU) involved 29 patients while the other at Johns Hopkins University had 51. In the NYU study, patients were split into two groups and given either psilocybin or niacin, a chemical that mimics the beginning stages of a psilocybin acid “trip” but served as a placebo because it was found to have little effect on the chemical composition of the brain. In the study done at Johns Hopkins University, patients were given two sessions of psilocybin treatment with differing dosages. The lower dosage was found to have little effect compared to the higher one.

Recreational mushrooms are a form of a psychedelic drug that causes visual distortions and hallucinations.

Image Source: Clover No.7 Photography

In both studies, it was found that 80% of patients experienced a drop in anxiety and depression that lasted for six months or more after taking a dosage of psilocybin. Both the patients and their psychiatric evaluators felt that the patients were more optimistic and had a better overall outlook on life after treatment with psilocybin. This could be especially important for those suffering from terminal cancer, as it could help some people cope with the harsh reality of their impending death. No long term effects have been observed so far, and the worst short-term effects have been a slight nausea or a headache.

It is imperative to understand that the studies at the universities were done under carefully controlled conditions; patients were thoroughly screened for a history of mental illnesses or schizophrenia prior to being chosen. Taking psilocybin regularly can lead to mental problems that spiral out of control. Despite this, it is unarguable that this drug, as well as other psychedelics such as LSD, can help many cancer patients by treating their depression. More eye-opening research can help lift the negative stigma towards psychedelic drugs and show the therapeutic potential they possess.

Feature Image Source: mushrooms by Aleksey Gnilenokov

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