Those of us who have tried psychedelic substances know that they can be fairly life-changing. They allow you to see the world from multiple different perspectives numerous times over and simply change the way you think and perceive things. While most people use the substances recreationally, a surprisingly large number of people are starting to use them for medicinal reasons as well.
Just a few nights ago, I was hanging out at a local bar with some friends and family and met a young man who told me about a psychotic disorder he suffered from that doctors couldn’t diagnose because they weren’t exactly sure what was wrong. They told him it was similar to schizophrenia. And after he’d tried a number of different pharmaceutical treatment options, he said the only thing that seemed to help calm the chaos in his brain were psychedelic drugs.
More and more stories similar to this man’s are popping up around the world, noting that some of the only effective ways to treat their chronic conditions are by taking substances such as LSD and magic mushrooms.
In fact, a recent study out of New York University has been experimenting with the use of psilocybin (the psychoactive compound found in magic mushrooms) to help treat the anxiety and depression of those suffering from cancer.
Two studies have since been published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, one by NYU featuring 29 patients and the other by Johns Hopkins University featuring 51 patients. Using similar methods and procedures, both studies discovered that about 80 percent of patients who consumed psilocybin experienced decreases in both depression and anxiety that lasted for at least six months--in some cases, permanently.
Patients reported feeling more optimistic about life and felt that it was more meaningful, while those with terminal diagnoses were better able to cope with their imminent fates and suffer less than they would have if they had not been given the psychedelic compound.
“There’s something about these experiences that allows people to see their disease process in a much larger scope. They might say—‘I’m very sad, I’m dying. But in a larger sense it’s OK, and it’ll be alright.’ They’re certainly not welcoming their death, but they’re no longer deeply fearful of it,” says Roland Griffiths, leader of the Johns Hopkins study.
Researcher and psychiatrist at UCLA, Charles Grob, says he doesn’t believe there is any other drug that can provide such long-lasting effects with just one dose. He also notes that he’s not entirely surprised by what these two studies have found, as he found similar discoveries when he conducted a similar study back in 2011 on 12 cancer patients.
Illegal to possess, but approved by the DEA for studies such as these - Image credit: Johns Hopkins
What’s also impressive is that there have been zero long-term negative consequences for patients in each of the studies. Some patients continued to experience slight effects of their anxiety and an even smaller number of patients experienced short bouts of nausea.
Roland Griffiths says that these two studies have “set the stage” for phase 3 clinical trials that would be evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, which could potentially lead to a reclassification of such substances by the Drug Enforcement Administration. But, more testing would need to be done, in a similar fashion to what these cancer patients experienced, before psilocybin and other psychedelic compounds would be deemed legal for use by healthy folks and those suffering from anxiety or depression without chronic illnesses.
“It’s time to take psychedelic treatments in psychiatry and oncology seriously, as we did in the 1950 and 1960s, which means we need to go back to the future,” says David Nutt, neuropsychopharmacologist at Imperial College London.
You can read more about these studies, as well as others, here! And be sure to share with friends and loved ones who might be interested in these new discoveries surrounding the medicinal benefits of psychedelic compounds.