Using magic mushrooms to treat depression in cancer patients

Using magic mushrooms to treat depression in cancer patients

Over the last decade, there has been a spurt in the use of opioids for pain management. Since the chronic use of pain-relieving drugs is associated with serious complications, including addiction and overdose, scientists are consistently working toward finding new, less harmful remedies. Lately, researchers have been exploring the potential role of psilocybin, a hallucinogenic compound found in mushrooms, for its contribution in mental health.

Two new studies carried out at the New York University and Johns Hopkins, published in the journal Psychopharmacology, have reported that a single dose of psilocybin could help reduce depression and anxiety in patients dealing with the life-threatening disorder-cancer. The compound has been found to ease out the stress associated with cancer.

Psilocybin and Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) are two potential hallucinogens, which act on the 5-HT2A receptors present throughout the brain. Upon stimulation, these receptors bring about a cascade of psychological symptoms such as hallucinations, euphoria and emotional upsurge.

The role of psilocybin in the management of anxiety and depression was also studied back in the 1940s through 1960s; however, the research was put on a halt by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970. Only recently, the researchers have started exploring the therapeutic benefits of this substance once again. The use of psilocybin looks promising in the conservative cancer therapy where typically, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have been used for the management of depression. SSRIs usually take a long time to act and also have the potential to cause multiple side effects.

As part of the study, the psychiatrists administered a standard and moderate dose of psilocybin to cancer patients and waited for the effects to show up. Subsequently, the study participants were made to undergo a structured therapy session. The key findings of the study were as follows:

  • Almost 80 percent of the study participants displaced an alleviation in death-related
  • One woman, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2010, reported that the experience equipped her to perceive her disease in a different way, hence, helped her better to cope.

Based on these finding, Roland Griffiths, a psychiatrist from Johns Hopkins Medical School, reported that psilocybin is a potent hallucinogen, capable of eliciting positive moods and behavioral changes in an individual. However, the researchers have warned that psilocybin alone cannot generate such positive effects. Clearly, a combination of optimal surroundings and a guided psychiatric session is required to get the optimum benefit.

Whether psilocybin has a long-term effect on depression is still debated, however, the researchers reported that healthy volunteers, who received the drug nearly 15 years back, still recall the incident as one of the most memorable times of their lives. Thus, the researcher emphasized the need for conducting, more research to study the long-term effects of the compound, possibly for the management of depression and alcoholism.

Road to recovery

Chronic and life-threatening disorders often cause a lot of depression to the patient. In such a scenario, managing the disorder along with the depressive symptoms becomes a challenge to the palliative psychiatric care. Patients grappling with depression find it excruciatingly difficult to comply with their treatment regimen, hence, it is critical that the management of depression is made a part of the total recovery, especially in those struggling with life-threatening diseases.

If you or your loved one is suffering from depression, contact the Depression Treatment Helpline to get information about various depression help centers in the U.S. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-619-7729 or chat online with our representatives to know about one of the best depression rehabs.