It’s already known that small amounts of magic mushrooms can benefit the mind. However, groundbreaking research shows that only a single dose of the psychedelic fungi can reduce cancer-related mental health issues in the long term, according to a study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology on Jan. 28.
“Our findings strongly suggest that psilocybin therapy is a promising means of improving the emotional, psychological and spiritual well-being of patients with life-threatening cancer,” said Dr. Stephen Ross, associate professor of psychiatry at NYU Langone Health and author of the study, in a statement to CNN.
The landmark research was a followup of a 2016 John Hopkins trial - using 51 subjects - studying whether magic mushrooms could relieve death anxiety and depression in cancer patients. The participants at that time were administered either high or low doses of synthetic psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in mushrooms. Researchers then gave their subjects the opposite doses five weeks later, per the findings published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
The mind-bending morels’ ingredient worked like a charm. “These effects appear to be sustained in our study at least six or seven weeks and very plausibly more than six months,” Roland Griffiths, a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and head author of the research, told CNN in 2016.
However, he had vastly underestimated how long the benefits of a single psilocybin dose could last. When scientists conducted a follow-up about four years later with 15 members of the original 2016 trials, they found that up to 80% experienced “positive life changes” from the treatment.
Subject Dinah Bazer was plagued with anxiety in the two years after she beat ovarian cancer while in her mid-60s, reports NBC. However, thanks to the truffle trials, she’s been worry-free going on four years. Despite being diagnosed with a rare form of gastrological cancer in March 2019, Bazer is no longer anxious about “how I viewed my reoccurrence when it did happen,” she said.
“The drug seems to facilitate a deep, meaningful experience that stays with a person and can fundamentally change his or her mindset and outlook,” said Gabby Agin-Liebes, lead author of the long-term follow-up study and co-author of the 2016 study.
However, unlike in the original study - in which psilocybin was eventually given to each participant - there was no control group in the follow-up. As a result, researchers “do not know whether the participants might have improved long term anyway, regardless of the treatment,” says James Rucker, head of the Psychedelic Trials Group at the Centre for Affective Disorders at London’s Kings College.
Nonetheless, the landmark results could help pave the way for more clinical trials involving psilocybin, and perhaps even help accelerate mushroom legalization. Last year, Oakland, California, and Denver, Colorado, became the first US cities to decriminalize the trippy truffles.
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