(Big Think) Psilocybin, the psychoactive compound found in magic mushrooms, was studied by two of the most respected universities in the United States in one of the largest studies ever conducted regarding the substance back in December, and they found some pretty amazing results.
The studies featured 29 patients at New York University (NYU) and 51 patients at Johns Hopkins University.
As one might imagine, being diagnosed with cancer can wreak havoc on one’s mind, causing a number of psychological illnesses, including depression. About 40 percent of people afflicted with cancer experience some type of mental illness due to the disease.
In this study, they discovered that around 80 percent of their cancer patients had boosts in their mental health after taking just a single dose of psilocybin. These psychological improvements lasted for up to seven months and had only minor side effects. Those who took psilocybin reported having a higher quality of life, more energy throughout the day, wanting to get outside more and even healthier relationships with their friends and family.
One thing researchers were interested to note was that patients who had “tripped” the hardest experienced the most relief in terms of anxiety and depression.
"The cloud of doom seemed to just lift… I got back in touch with my family and kids, and my wonder at life. Before, I was sitting alone at home, and I couldn't move… This study made a huge difference, and it's persisted,” said Sherry Marcy, a patient involved in the study who had been fighting cancer since 2010.
Both studies from both universities used a method of treatment that would ensure minimal involvement of the placebo effect. They randomly chose which patients to give a dose of psilocybin and which to give the placebo medication, ensuring that by the end of the study all patients had at some point received a dose of psilocybin.
83 percent of patients who took the psilocybin reportedly got better while only about 14 percent of people who took the placebo reported feeling better.
While the researchers of this study found promising results, they caution others to self-medicate. Psilocybin is still a banned substance within the United States and has been for over four decades. They say people will benefit most from psychedelic compounds if they have professionals measuring out doses while also providing a safe, positive environment in which to fully experience them.
They also warn against taking them if you are a young adult or suffer from schizophrenia.
Researchers who want to move forward in this field, but can’t because of government regulations, are hoping to conduct more studies in the future with larger sample sizes because “there is much potential for new scientific insights and clinical applications.”
What do you think? Should restrictions around psychedelic compounds be loosened for the sake of medicinal and scientific progress?