Magic mushrooms for the terminally ill

September 8, 2010 by  
Filed under CANCER

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Many things in life are double-edged. Medications come with therapeutic as well side effects. And illegal substances such as hallucinogens may actually help alleviate the suffering of some.

The flower generation of the 60s are familiar with the effects and side effects of lysergic acid diethylamide  aka LSD. Its current equivalent is the magic mushroom Psilocybe cubensis with the active ingredient psilocybin. Both LSD and mushrooms are banned substances in the US.

However, researchers in the field of psychiatry are looking into the benefits of these substances, especially those who are afflicted with severe anxiety and depression. In the 50s to the 70s, studies were conducted to investigate how hallucinogens affect moods. However, the widespread use of these drugs on the streets led to strict regulations, so that the research projects had to be abandoned.

According to Dr. Charles Grob of Harbor-University of California Los Angeles Medical Center and the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute:

“Forty to 45 years ago, the culture was going through tremendous upheaval. These compounds were associated with a very politically active counterculture… It was something of a public health crisis. Everything had to be shut down.”

In recent years, the possible use of illegal substances as marijuana and opioids in alleviating anxiety, distress and pain in terminally ill patients have been brought out in the open. In fact, in some parts of the US, medical marijuana can now be used with certain restrictions.

In the currents study, the researchers looked at 12 patients with advanced cancer and assessed whether hallucinogenic mushrooms can ease the distress and anxiety that comes with terminal disease. The patients were given either psilocybin or placebo without knowing which medication they got and observed for 6 hours. During the observation period, they were instructed to lie still, close their eyes and listen to soothing music through headphones.

Those who received the hallucinogens showed an improvement in anxiety levels and also an improvement in1 depression scale. No severe side effects from the “trip” were reported.

The study was simply a pilot study to show that this type of research is safe and tolerable and should be pursued further. Dr. Grob continued to explain:

“Times have changed and it’s now possible to pick up this research model again… I think that is an indication that there has been a very strong shift within society to move away from the old cultural bias and politics of the process many years ago. I think there is a greater capacity to be open-minded and let science dictate our conclusion, not politics.”

Photo credit: wikicommons

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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