(NaturalNews) A growing body of research indicates that the active chemical in "magic mushrooms" may help significantly ease the psychological and spiritual distress commonly experienced by cancer patients, according to a book excerpt published in Psychological Aspects of Cancer: A Guide to Emotional and Psychological Consequences of Cancer, Their Causes, and Their Management.
The chapter recounts studies conducted by researchers from New York University, and is authored by researchers from New York University, the University of California-Los Angeles and Johns Hopkins University.
It has been well established that cancer patients, particularly those in the advanced stages of the disease, regularly experience a wide range of psychological and spiritual distress including anxiety, anger, denial, depression, helplessness, social isolation, loss of independence and hopelessness. Yet, health professionals have focused relatively little attention on how best to help alleviate such distress.
"The emotional, spiritual and existential distress that can often accompany a diagnosis of cancer often goes unidentified and untreated in cancer patients," co-author Anthony P. Bossis said. "Patients who have benefited from psilocybin clinical research have reported less anxiety, improved quality of life, enhanced psychological and spiritual well-being, and a greater acceptance of the life-changes brought on by cancer."
"Dramatic" improvement in quality of life
The compound psilocybin naturally occurs in a wide variety of mushrooms. The body metabolizes it into psilocin, which is known to activate the brain's serotonin receptors. Psilocybin functions as a potent psychotropic compound, accounting for the widespread popularity of "magic mushrooms."
In the studies described in the chapter, patients enrolled in the ongoing Psilocybin Cancer Anxiety Study at the Bluestone Center for Clinical Research were psychologically prepared for the psychotropic experiences associated with psilocybin use, followed by several integrative psychotherapy sessions. Patients then underwent two separate "drug administration" sessions, one involving psilocybin and the other involving a placebo.
The researchers found that psilocybin consistently induced mystical and spiritual experiences in the patients, who then experienced improvements in emotional and psychological health.
"Mystical or peak consciousness states in cancer patients have been associated with a number of benefits including improved psychological, spiritual, and existential well-being," Bossis said.
The chapter includes a vignette chronicling the case of a patient who had suffered from extreme pain, achiness, fatigue, discomfort and psychological distress over the course of three years resulting from intensive chemotherapy. The patient was struggling with increasing levels of anxiety and depression. Although the patient's cancer status and chemotherapy schedule did not change, he reported that 18 weeks after psilocybin treatment, he was still experiencing significantly better mood, attitude and coping than before the treatment.
The experiments reported in the chapter consist of pilot studies that comprise only a part of the ongoing Psilocybin Cancer Anxiety Study. The study was recently featured in a news article in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
"It is a welcome development that this promising and novel clinical research model utilizing psilocybin has begun to gain clinical and academic attention," Bossis said.