“JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: why some psychiatrists and researchers are giving psychedelic drugs a second look as a possible way of treating depression and some mental illnesses.
The idea had been shunned for years, but now some say a time for larger trials with the drugs is due.
Miles O’Brien has the story for our weekly segment on the Leading Edge of science.”
Heffter Research Institute is proud to have supported new psilocybin studies published December 1 in The Journal of Psychopharmacology reporting the effectiveness of using psilocybin to reduce depression, anxiety and existential distress in cancer patients. Below is a round-up of articles discussing the recent findings of the NYU School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins University studies.
Have questions about psilocybin research? Contact Heffter Research Institute for more information.
“On a summer morning in 2013, Octavian Mihai entered a softly lit room furnished with a small statue of Buddha, a box of tissues and a single red rose. From an earthenware chalice, he swallowed a capsule of psilocybin, an ingredient found in hallucinogenic mushrooms.
Then he put on an eye mask and headphones and lay down on a couch. Soon, images flew by like shooting stars: a spinning world that looked like a blue-green chessboard; himself on a stretcher in front of a hospital; his parents, gazing at him with aching sadness as he reached out to them, suffused with childlike love.”
“A single dose of psilocybin, the long-banned active compound in “magic mushrooms,” significantly reduced anxiety, depression and the fear of death among cancer patients for months at a time, according to two studies published Thursday.
Eighty people in separate clinical trials at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and New York University Langone Medical Center were given psilocybin under close supervision. The vast majority experienced an increase in optimism, a feeling of connection with other people, and mystical and spiritual experiences. The effects persisted through the six-month follow-up period.”
“The doom hung like an anvil over her head. In 2012, a few years after Carol Vincent was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, she was waiting to see whether her cancer would progress enough to require chemotherapy or radiation. The disease had already done a number on her, inflating lymph nodes on her chin, collar bones, and groin. She battled her symptoms while running her own marketing business. To top it all off, she was going through menopause.
“Life is just pointless stress, and then you die,” she thought. “All I’m doing is sitting here waiting for all this shit to happen.””
“Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have found that a psychedelic drug can significantly reduce anxiety, depression and other emotional distress in cancer patients.
The patients experienced almost immediate relief, which lasted for months, after taking psilocybin, the active hallucinogenic ingredient in “magic mushrooms,” the researchers reported. A separate study by researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center found the same effect.”
“Cancer is a brutal disease on both the body and mind. Not only do treatments like chemotherapy take a massive toll, but the emotional side effects can be hard to bear. Depression and anxiety are high among people with cancer, including those in remission. But two new studies offer promising relief through an unlikely source: hallucinogenic drugs.”
“Patrick Mettes was overcome with frustration. He was anxious.
His bile duct cancer seemed to bring him more anguish than his wife, Lisa Callaghan, ever realized, she said at a news conference Wednesday.
In search of solace, Mettes volunteered for a study in which he was given a synthetic version of psilocybin, a compound found in mind-altering “magic mushrooms,” as a potential treatment for his anxiety and depressed mood.
“In findings that could pry open a door closed for nearly half a century, researchers have found that psilocybin — a hallucinogen long used in traditional healing rituals — eases the depression and soothes the anxiety of patients contending with serious illness and the prospect of imminent death.
In two separate studies published Thursday, researchers report that trial subjects who received a single moderate-to-large dose of psilocybin got substantial and lasting relief from their profound distress. Among 80 cancer patients who participated in the two trials, as many as 4 in 5 continued to feel measurably less hopeless and demoralized six months after taking the drug than they had upon their recruitment.”
Read the full Los Angeles article here
A recent article in OUPblog, the online source for news and commentary from the Oxford University Press, covers changing attitudes towards psychedelics. In “Finding a New Perspective on Psychedelics,” editor Matt Turney notes that “The reputation of these compounds is undergoing rehabilitation, but we can’t know how long it will take to shrug off the weight of the mischaracterizations that have been heaped on them for years.” Turney mentions the work of Heffter researchers Anthony Bossis, Roland Griffiths, and Michael Bogenschutz.
“Psychedelic inquiry hasn’t yet gone mainstream, but it is no longer restricted to the fringes of the research community. Oxford University Press’s own JNCI: The Journal of the National Cancer Institute published an editorial in 2012 recognizing a number of early-stage psychedelic studies, such as the NYU cancer study, that show promise. More recently, UK-based medical journal The Lancet encouraged readers to “turn on and tune in to evidence-based psychedelic research.” A TED talk from Roland Griffiths, as well as an article by Michael Pollan in the New Yorker, have been other sources of good press. And though these substances could still be better understood, there is strong evidence that their effectiveness is linked to measureable activity they cause in the brain, wherein a mystical experience—indistinguishable from those experienced by the devoutly religious—is induced in the test subject.”