Featured art by Simon Haiduk
The biggest study ever carried out, by the most respected institutions to date, point to the fact that Psilocybin, which is a compound stated to be within “magic mushrooms” can be highly effective in the treatment of anxiety and depression in patients suffering from cancer.
The researchers used 29 patients from New York University (NYU) and 51 patients at Johns Hopkins University to carry out the study.
It has being discovered that at least 40% of the people suffering from cancer suffer from psychological issues linked to their illness.
About 80% of the patients in the study who were suffering from cancer showed remarkable improvement after taking just one dose. They were also able to maintain their psychological progress for up to seven months, with very little side effects. The patients reported remarkable improvements in their quality of life, as they became more energetic, socializing more, maintaining better relationships with their friends and family.
One remarkable thing was that, those who had to go through a longer trip, were the one who reported the strongest progress in the alleviation of their depression and anxiety. Quite a number of authorities in the field of psychiatry and addiction medicine have conveyed their support for the work. They include Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, who used to be a president of the American Psychiatric Association and Dr. Daniel Shalev of the New York State Psychiatric Institute, who posited that the studies are ”a model for revisiting criminalized compounds of interest in a safe, ethical way.”
A number of regulators also reviewed the study, and the New York Times described it as the “most meticulous” till this day.
Dr. Roland Griffiths, a psychiatrist who is the lead author of the John Hopkins study, expressed optimism at the prospects of the new treatment, referring to it as a groundbreaking surgery instead of the traditional psychiatric approaches used to make people feel better.
“I really don’t think we have any models in psychiatry that look like” the effects demonstrated in the two trials, said Griffiths. “Something occurs and it’s repaired and it’s better going forward … very plausibly for more than six months,” he added. “In that sense it’s a new model.”
Sherry Marcy, one of the study participants who had been battling with cancer since 2010, described the changes she underwent in the following words:
“The cloud of doom seemed to just lift… I got back in touch with my family and kids, and my wonder at life,” “Before, I was sitting alone at home, and I couldn’t move … This”
Both studies involved offering psilocybin or a placebo to patients at random during the first session, then administering the opposite treatment to them after seven weeks. By so doing, they ensured that all the participants took psilocybin. The rate of success of psilocybin against placebo was very obvious in both studies, with about 83% of those on psilocybin getting better, and only 14% of those on placebo in the NYU study. However, psilocybin has been banned in the U.S. for more than 40 years. Therefore, in the course of the study, the scientists were strict about warning against using “magic mushrooms” to administer self-medication against depression. They warned against taking the dosage without the supervision of professionals to control the dosage and provide an environment that is safe enough to undergo the effects of the drugs. Also, this therapy might be inappropriate for people suffering from schizophrenia or young adults.
According to Dr. Shalev and Dr. Lieberman, in other to record progress in this field, research restrictions have to be loosened because, “there is much potential for new scientific insights and clinical applications.” Ideally, the next step ought to be a trial involving a larger sample, preferably across several centers with lots of subjects.
However, not everybody is in support. The chairman of the psychiatry department at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Dr. William Breitbart, expressed his concerns over the use of cancer patients to carry out the study.
“Medical marijuana got its foot in the door by making the appeal that ‘cancer patients are suffering, they’re near death, so for compassionate purposes, let’s make it available,’ ” he said. “And then you’re able to extend this drug to other purposes.”
Other studies carried out earlier this year, have also demonstrated the positive effect of psilocybin in the treatment of depression.
The recent studies can be found in the journal of Psychopharmacology, of the NYU study and the John Hopkins study, which are all available here.