Magic Mushrooms Help Treat Existential Anxiety In Cancer Patients

People suffering from life-threatening cancers may benefit from taking a hallucinogenic substance called psilocybin, usually found in magic mushrooms. Two new examines published today in the Journal of Psychopharmacology find evidence that just a single dosage of the medication can produce long-lasting reductions in clinical depression, nervousnes and existential worry in up to 80 percent of patients facing the prospect of potentially terminal cancer.

Roland Griffiths, who co-authored one of the studies, explained in a statement that a life-threatening cancer diagnosis can be psychologically challenging, with nervousnes and depression as very common symptoms.

He and his colleagues recruited 51 patients with life-threatening cancers, all of whom had been diagnosed with depression or anxiety as a direct result of their condition. After receiving a dose of psilocybin, however, participants began to experience clinically verifiable improvements in their mood.

Amazingly, six months later, 78 percent of those that had been diagnosed with depression and 83 percent of those suffering from anxiety continued to benefit from reduced symptoms, with approximately 60 percent showing signs of complete remission.

For the second study, researchers dedicated 21 cancer patients either a dose of psilocybin or a placebo, before switching the therapies seven weeks later, so that those who originally received the placebo now get psilocybin.

Both groups began to show improvements in mood immediately after taking the hallucinogen, but not when they were given the placebo. At the six-and-a-half-month stage, these anti-depressant impacts were still noticeable in approximately 80 percent of participants.

Depression and anxiety are understandably common among people with life-threatening cancers.prudkov/ Shutterstock

These two surveys build on earlier research conducted by the Beckley/ Imperial Psychedelic Research Programme, in which 67 percentage of participants with treatment-resistant depression experienced upgrading of symptoms one week after taking psilocybin, with 42% in remission at three months. Amanda Feilding, co-director of the programme, told IFLScience that “participants described their experiences as transformative, enabling them to gain a new view on things that improved their state of mind and well-being.”

While the neurological mechanism behind this phenomenon are not yet fully understood, previous analyzes have shown that psilocybin as well as other psychedelic substances like DMT activates the brains serotonin receptors. Because serotonin is one of the key neurotransmitters involved in controlling mood, scientists suspect that this may explain the anti-depressant effects of psilocybin.

Recent brain-imaging studies analyse the effects of psilocybin and LSD also showed that these substance reduce activity in the Default Mode Network, which, when overactive, can create rigid patterns of thought and contribute to conditions like depression.

Our outcomes represent the strongest evidence to date of a clinical benefit from psilocybin therapy, with the health risks to transform care for patients with cancer-related psychological distress, explained analyze co-author Stephen Ross. “And if it’s true for cancer care, then it could apply to other stressful medical conditions, adds his colleague Anthony Bossis.

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