Article : "Magic mushroom chemical psilocybin could be key to treating depression - studies&quo

Photo by NYU Langone Medical Center

"A single dose of psilocybin, the active ingredient of magic mushrooms, can lift the anxiety and depression experienced by people with advanced cancer for six months or even longer, two new studies show.. Researchers involved in the two trials in the United States say the results are remarkable. "

"The volunteers had “profoundly meaningful and spiritual experiences” which made most of them rethink life and death, ended their despair and brought about lasting improvement in the quality of their lives."

“I think it is a big deal both in terms of the findings and in terms of the history and what it represents. It was part of psychiatry and vanished and now it’s been brought back,” said Dr Stephen Ross, director of addiction psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center and lead investigator of the study that was based there.

"The main findings of the NYU study, which involved 29 patients, and the larger one from Johns Hopkins University with 51 patients, that a single dose of the medication can lead to immediate reduction in the depression and anxiety caused by cancer and that the effect can last up to eight months, “is unprecedented,” said Ross. “We don’t have anything like it.”"

"Patients describe the experiences as “re-organisational”, said Griffiths. Some in the field had used the term “mystical”, which he thought was unfortunate. “It sounds unscientific. It sounds like we’re postulating mechanisms other than neuroscience and I’m certainly not making that claim.”

Ross said psilocybin activates a sub-type of serotonin receptor in the brain. “Our brains are hard-wired to have these kinds of experiences - these alterations of consciousness. We have endogenous chemicals in our brain. We have a little system that, when you tickle it, it produces these altered states that have been described as spiritual states, mystical states in different religious branches.""

“They are defined by a sense of oneness – people feel that their separation between the personal ego and the outside world is sort of dissolved and they feel that they are part of some continuous energy or consciousness in the universe. Patients can feel sort of transported to a different dimension of reality, sort of like a waking dream."

“all essentially say the same thing: it’s time to take psychedelic treatments in psychiatry and oncology seriously, as we did in the 1950s and 1960s.” Professor David Nutt

Much more research needs to be done, he writes. “But the key point is that all agree we are now in an exciting new phase of psychedelic psychopharmacology that needs to be encouraged not impeded.”

“These findings, the most profound to date in the medical use of psilocybin, indicate it could be more effective at treating serious psychiatric diseases than traditional pharmaceutical approaches, and without having to take a medication every day,” said its medical director George Greer."

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