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 Ilana Cohen
Four years ago, Jacob Abel cast his first presidential vote for Donald Trump. As a young conservative from Concord, North Carolina, the choice felt natural.
But this November, he plans to cast a "protest vote" for a write-in candidate or abstain from casting a ballot for president. A determining factor in his 180-degree turn? Climate change.
Fractures Among Young Climate Conservatives<p>While young conservatives have united around the urgency of climate change, they remain divided over how to bring their concerns to the ballot box. Some embrace right-wing <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-attacks-republican-convention/2020/08/24/434e5b46-e66d-11ea-970a-64c73a1c2392_story.html" target="_blank">attacks</a> painting Biden as a "tool of the left" and find his climate agenda "radical." Others can't find a way to justify voting for Trump, even if it means breaking with their party.</p><p>Patrick Mann from Orange County, California, voted for Trump in 2016. But today, he's leading Aggies for Joe at Texas A&M University and is co-founder of Texas Students for Biden. </p><p>Mann grew up watching wildfires ravage his home state, nearly forcing his family to evacuate in 2017. The GOP is failing to "meet the moment" for climate action, Mann said. He's hoping Biden will deliver on a promise to "<a href="https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/caucus/2020/01/06/joe-biden-democrat-president-iowa-caucus-restore-soul-our-nation/2806422001/" target="_blank">restore the soul of our nation</a>." </p><p>Taylor Walker from Pensacola, Florida, is also determined to make her voice heard on climate, including by casting her first-ever vote for president—but not for Biden.</p>
A False Equivalency<p>Young climate conservatives may fear climate denial and delayed climate action, but more than that, they fear the growing political momentum around the Green New Deal, the massive spending it entails and <a href="https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/" target="_blank">Biden's citing of it</a> as a "crucial framing for meeting the climate challenges we face."</p><p>Many don't want to split with their party to support a Democrat whose <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/09/03/757220130/joe-biden-on-bipartisanship-gun-control-and-regrets-over-inaction-after-a-traged" target="_blank">allegedly bipartisan intentions</a> they doubt. If stymieing what they consider a radical green agenda means re-electing a climate change denying president, so be it. </p><p>"I'm scared of climate change, but I'm also scared of the Green New Deal and what it means for America," said Ben Mutolo, a republicEN spokesperson and junior at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. </p><p>Mutolo felt encouraged by former Ohio Governor John Kasich's <a href="https://www.rollcall.com/2020/08/17/kasich-speech-to-democratic-convention-follows-years-of-building-conservative-credentials/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">appearance</a> at the Democratic National Convention, but he still struggles to see himself voting for Biden. Though the candidate paints himself as a <a href="https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-08-12/harris-biden-different-generation-similar-political-instinct" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">centrist,</a> Mutolo believes he's "cozying up to the ultra-progressive left." </p><p>Mutolo, who wants to see market-based climate solutions like a carbon tax, feels torn between a candidate whose climate plan relies on taking an "<a href="https://joebiden.com/environmental-justice-plan/#" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">All-of-Government approach</a>," and one with no efforts to reign in global warming at all. <span></span></p><p>Leiserowitz said he appreciated how a conservative might feel Biden's climate plan "doesn't jive with their limited government, free-market approach."</p><p>But he sees a strong distinction between voting for a presidential candidate with a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/14/us/politics/biden-climate-plan.html" target="_blank">$2 trillion climate plan</a> that includes large renewable energy investments, which have <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/politics-global-warming-april-2020/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bipartisan support</a>, and a candidate trying "to take the country in the opposite direction, towards more fossil fuels."</p>
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