Single Dose of 'Magic Mushrooms' Provides Long-Term Anxiety Relief for Cancer Patients, Study Suggests
Not only did the patients feel reductions in anxiety, a slew of other mental health symptoms were relieved as well, including depression, hopelessness, demoralization and death anxiety, according to CNN.
In addition to self-reported improved well-being or life satisfaction, some patients rated the treatment as being "among the most personally meaningful and spiritually significant experiences of their lives," the authors wrote, as Medscape Medical News reported.
The study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, followed up on a study published in 2016 that gave cancer patients a single dose of synthetic psilocybin, the psychoactive chemical present in mushrooms, in a controlled setting where the patients were monitored the entire time, as NBC News reported.
The study was featured recently in the documentary Fantastic Fungi.
The new follow-up tracked 15 of the first 29 participants from the study nearly five years after their guided experience with synthetic psilocybin. After five years, nearly 80 percent were still experiencing significant improvements in cancer-related depression and anxiety. Furthermore, almost all of the participants chalked up their positive life changes to the psychedelic-assisted therapy, according to NBC News.
"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 in the Department of Psychiatry at NYU Langone Health, as CNN reported.
"This approach has the potential to produce a paradigm shift in the psychological and existential care of patients with cancer, especially those with terminal illness," Ross added, as Medscape Medical News reported.
That said, it is important to note that this was a single controlled-dose from pharmacy-made synthetic psilocybin, and a trained nurse monitored the patients while they were under the influence of the narcotic. Possessing hallucinogenic mushrooms is a felony and ingesting them is potentially hazardous.
The researchers are not sure why psilocybin produced such long-lasting relief, but they previously theorized that it has to do with the brain's neuroplasticity — the brain's ability to adapt and change with various experiences, according to CNN.
"These results may shed light on how the positive effects of a single dose of psilocybin persist for so long," said Gabby Agin-Liebes, lead investigator and lead author of the long-term follow-up study, and co-author of the 2016 parent study. "The drug seems to facilitate a deep, meaningful experience that stays with a person and can fundamentally change his or her mindset and outlook."
One of the patients, Dinah Bazer, suffered from ovarian cancer in her 60s. After a successful round of chemotherapy, her anxiety inexplicably overwhelmed her.
"I thought that when the chemo ended, I would celebrate but instead, I went into a tailspin. Even though my prognosis was really excellent, I was worried about a relapse," Bazer said to NBC News. After her experience with synthetic psilocybin, Bazer went through six-months of no anxiety at all.
"What is permanent is that I don't have anxiety about cancer. Not only about my cancer returning, but how I viewed my reoccurrence when it did happen," said Bazer, who was diagnosed last March with a type of rare gastrointestinal cancer, as NBC News reported.
While the results are promising, they are limited because of the small number of patients in the study and the follow-up.
"The conclusions that can be drawn are limited because the original trial was a crossover design," said James Rucker, who leads the Psychedelic Trials Group at the Centre for Affective Disorders at Kings College London in the UK, to CNN. "This means that in the original trial every participant eventually received psilocybin. Because of this, there is no control group in this current study. This means that we do not know whether the participants might have improved long term anyway, regardless of the treatment."
However, Ross sees a bright future for the future of psilocybin in oncology.
"This could profoundly transform the psycho-oncologic care of patients with cancer, and importantly could be used in hospice settings to help terminally ill cancer patients approach death with improved emotional and spiritual well-being," Ross said, as CNN reported.
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By Kristen Fischer
It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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By Eoin Higgins
Over 300 groups on Monday urged Senate leadership to reject a bill currently under consideration that would incentivize communities to sell off their public water supplies to private companies for pennies on the dollar.
<div id="fea63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a6f211c2bc5aedd34837944cb8eeedf"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281000111481294849" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Water in Illinois is overwhelmingly public. Why is Tammy Duckworth sponsoring a bill that aims to change that? https://t.co/1V36Kkd99s</div> — The American Prospect (@The American Prospect)<a href="https://twitter.com/TheProspect/statuses/1281000111481294849">1594249201.0</a></blockquote></div>
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