Terminally ill cancer patients struggling with anxiety may get some relief from a guided “trip” on the hallucinogenic drug psilocybin, a new study suggests.
The study included 12 patients who took a small dose of psilocybin — the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms” — while under the supervision of trained therapists. In a separate session, the participants took a placebo pill, which had little effect on their symptoms.
By contrast, one to three months after taking psilocybin the patients reported feeling less anxious and their overall mood had improved. By the six-month mark, the group’s average score on a common scale used to measure depression had declined by 30 percent, according to the study, which was published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
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In follow-up interviews with the researchers, some patients said their experience with psilocybin gave them a new perspective on their illness and brought them closer to family and friends. “We were pleased with the results,” says the lead researcher, Charles Grob, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, in Torrance, Calif.
Notably, the psilocybin did not aggravate the patients’ anxiety or provoke any other unwanted effects besides a slight increase in blood pressure and heart rate.