‘Magic Mushroom’ Drug Eases Cancer Patient Anxiety

‘Magic Mushroom’ Drug Eases Cancer Patient Anxiety
Psilocybe mexicana, a psilocybin source. (Credit: Alan Rockefeller via Wikimedia Commons)

Just one dose of a hallucinogenic drug offers many cancer patients up to six months of relief from disease-related anxiety or depression.

Researchers report that a substantial majority of patients got a respite from cancer-related mood disorders after a single large dose of psilocybin, the active compound in perception-altering, vision-inducing “magic mushrooms.”

The researchers caution the drug was given in tightly controlled conditions in the presence of two clinically trained monitors. They don’t recommend use of the compound outside of a research or patient-care setting.

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“The most interesting and remarkable finding is that a single dose of psilocybin, which lasts four to six hours, produced enduring decreases in depression and anxiety symptoms,” says Roland Griffiths, professor of behavioral biology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “This may represent a fascinating new model for treating some psychiatric conditions.”

Traditional psychotherapy for people with cancer, including behavioral therapy and antidepressants, can take weeks or even months, Griffiths says. It isn’t always effective, and some drugs, such as benzodiazepines, may have addictive and other troubling side effects.

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