Anxiety, depression lessened after a dose of magic mushroom hallucinogen: studies

Magic mushrooms are seen at the Procare farm in Hazerswoude, central Netherlands, Friday Aug. 3, 2007.
Magic mushrooms are seen at the Procare farm in Hazerswoude, central Netherlands, Friday Aug. 3, 2007. AP Photo/Peter Dejong

The magic mushroom may have another magical property.

The hallucinogen psilocybin, which is found in magic mushrooms, has been linked to a lift in anxiety and depression in cancer patients.

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New studies from John Hopkins and New York Universities show a majority of people who have cancer-related depression found “considerable relief” after consuming the hallucinogen.

Even more remarkable – the effects continued six months after the last treatment.

Both studies showed similar results: around 80 per cent of participants showed significant decreases in depressed mood and anxiety.

“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,” Dr. Roland Griffiths, lead researcher and a professor of behavioural biology at John Hopkins said.

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“This may represent a fascinating new model for treating some psychiatric conditions.”

It’s an important subject, he said, because people with cancer can be “psychologically challenging.” In fact, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network reports that up to 40 per cent of people diagnosed will experience a mood disorder.

“People with this kind of existential anxiety often feel hopeless and are worried about the meaning of life and what happens upon death,” Griffiths said in a news release.

Researchers at New York University (NYU) said the results were nearly instantaneous. In comparison, antidepressants can take weeks to have an effect, Dr. Stephen Ross, who led the NYU study told the New York Times.

And the effects are life changing, according to one patient.

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Octavian Mihai, who had lymphoma in 2013, told the Times he participated in the NYU study and had an epiphany during his session.

He asked himself:  “Why are you letting yourself be terrorized by cancer coming back?”

“That’s when I saw black smoke rising from my body. And it felt great.”

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Three years later, Mihai says he still isn’t anxious about his cancer, and he attributes it to the session.

The studies were both conducted in safe environments, with staff members supervising the sessions. Researchers say they  don’t condone using mushrooms for “self-treatment,” the NYT reports.

Both studies were funded in part by the Heffter Research Institute.