People who are diagnosed with cancer have a higher risk of developing mental health issues. A recent study showed psilocybin, found in “magic mushrooms,” can be a treatment for cancer depression, anxiety, and fear of terminally ill patients.
In order to understand the context of the study more fully, one should know what depression is – its definition, risk factors, and more importantly, how it impacts cancer patients.
What is Depression?
Depression is a serious thing. It is more than just feeling sad or down. And it cannot be shaken off just by telling a patient who is suffering from depression that it is just in their head, or they should just shake it off. In fact, depression is a serious mental illness where a patient’s brain chemistry changes and treatment is needed.
The World Health Organization characterizes depression as one of the most debilitating disorders in the world. Also, the disease is not as rare as many people think. One out every four women and 10 men have experienced a depression at some point in their life. An estimate of 21 percent of women and 12 percent in the U.S. can, and will, experience depression at a certain stage in their life.
Factors that can onset the mental illness vary. Genetics, changes in a person’s hormonal levels, stress, and grief are only some of the causes for a person to develop the disorder. Moreover, people who are suffering from a serious medical condition or undergoing a difficult phase or change in life show a very high circumstance too.
Most, if not all, of the mentioned factors, can be the same thing a person diagnosed with cancer to possibly go through.
How About Cancer Depression?
Patients who suffer from terminal diseases, mostly diagnosed with cancer, have a higher tendency to suffer psychiatric disorders. According to statistics, 30 percent of cancer patients go through a phase called “adjustment reaction” as patients move about their lives under stressful events. Out of these patients, 20 percent continue to develop a formal psychiatric diagnosis that usually falls under the wing of depression.
A quarter, out of all cancer patients is also diagnosed with depression. The ratio between men and women developing the mental disorder is around the same.
These cancer patients usually stress about the following factors, however, they are not limited to:
- fear of dying
- undergoing changes, like physical changes, life, and future plans, and more
- financial concerns
- legal concerns
- emotional stress
Moreover, cancer depression can also develop into heightened anxiety and fear from patients, which disable them to cope up and function properly while battling the disease. Around half of newly diagnosed cancer patients were found out to suffer from depression, anxiety, and fear as a direct result of the cancer diagnosis.
In some cases, patients who reach a point of losing hope prefer to stop fighting. And at an alarming rate, more and more patients are asking for the right to die with a physician’s assistance. With that, medical researchers have moved to find ways on how to ease a terminally ill patient’s mental health issues.
Cancer Depression Treatment: Psilocybin from “Magic Mushrooms”
Psilocybin, a compound found in certain mushrooms, shows great potential in becoming a treatment for cancer depression and anxiety.
Two separate trials that were conducted showed positive results. Among the 80 cancer patients who are afflicted with mental health issues and participated in the trials, four out of every five has felt and continued to experience a profound sense of peace, easing their cancer depression and anxieties. Some even went on to experience the relief through the years.
The study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology shows that the patients who were given a single dose of the hallucinogen aided in giving them a substantial and lasting relief from the distress they are suffering due to the terminal illness.
Cancer Patients Testified for Positive Psilocybin Treatment Results
Two of the participants shared their experience. Sherry Marcy has been fighting cancer since 2010. She is also suffering from cancer depression following the big challenge that arrived in her life.
After taking a dosage of psilocybin, Marcy shares that she felt like “a cloud of doom” was lifted. She was able to function more by getting in touch again with her friends and family, which is a welcome change from her former ways where all she did was lie down as she could not move.
Another participant, Dina Bazer, received the treatment in New York in 2011 where she was given a single dose of psilocybin. Bazer testifies that the psychedelic drug “saved” and “changed” her life.
Bazer used to suffer from anxieties in the wake of her battle against ovarian cancer as she fears the illness will return. After being high from the hallucinogen, Bazer became “volcanically angry” towards cancer that she fears is looming over her. She, later on, visualizes herself throwing the fear away.
As someone who used to be an atheist, Bazer was transformed and said she felt like she was “bathed in God’s love” after it. Even when the hallucinatory effects of the drug started wearing off, Bazer swears that two years of severe anxiety simply disappeared.
Two “Magic Mushroom” Trials
The results and testaments of the patients who participated in the trial gave researchers and doctors a positive boost following their study. The medical director of the nonprofit organization that funded the two studies, Dr. George Greer of the Heffter Research Institute, says the trials gave “a groundbreaking result.”
In one study, Roland Griffiths, Ph.D., led researchers at John Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. They treated 51 cancer patients with a low dosage of psilocybin and then upped the dosage after five weeks. The majority of the patients continue to experience relief from their cancer depression and anxiety with the comforting feeling lasting up to six months.
The other study led by Stephen Ross, MD, of NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City administered 29 patients who are afflicted by advanced cancer with one dose of psilocybin.
Around 80 percent of the patients that participated showed results of getting better from depression. Test scores also showed the relieving effect of the psychedelic drug lasted up to six months.
Ross said that their results reveal the “strongest evidence to date of a clinical benefit from psilocybin therapy.” Their study also comes with the “potential to transform care for patients with cancer-related psychological distress.”
Not the First Time Using Psychedelic Drugs for Psychological Treatments
Psychedelic drugs like magic mushrooms had long been used for therapeutical treatment. However, it has been halted for around 50 years already.
During the ‘50s and ‘60s, hallucinogens, like LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) and psilocybin, are normally used in psychotherapy treatments and U.S. biomedical research. But the drugs, later on, found a counterculture following. Thus, the U.S. government then banned the use of the psychedelic drugs and declared usage of them as illegal.
All research regarding the drugs’ potential benefits were stopped as well by the 1970s.
With the latest results, though, many researchers are looking forward to loosening restrictions on research of psilocybin’s benefits and how its big potential of becoming a treatment for cancer depression, anxiety, and distress.
Please take note that self-medication is definitely not allowed. Doctor consultation is needed.
Disclaimer: Citizen Oracle does not guarantee the effectiveness of any drug. Neither do we encourage on administering them, especially self-medication. We welcome and gladly report any research and study that aim to help and improve human health. But we believe that the effectiveness of drugs should first be verified by authorized health organizations and other medical bodies. Citizen Oracle and the author of this article will not be held responsible for any harm to you and to other people, in any way, as a result of reading this report.
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