A MIND-ALTERING “magic mushroom” drug can safely improve the lives of patients with advanced cancer, it was claimed.
Controversial research in the US showed one session with the drug, psilocybin, improved mood and reduced anxiety in the patient group for up to six months.
Psilocybin is the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms”, and classified as an illegal drug.
The drug has psychedelic effects that can include the enhancement of colours and visual hallucinations.
Professor Charles Grob, from the LA BioMed research institute in Los Angeles, California, said: “We are working with a patient population that often does not respond well to conventional treatments.
“Following their treatments with psilocybin, the patients and their families reported benefit from the use of this hallucinogen in reducing their anxiety.
“This study shows psilocybin can be administered safely, and that further investigation of hallucinogens should be pursued to determine their benefits.”
The pilot study builds on work in the 1950s and 1960s which found that psychedelic drugs could benefit advanced-stage cancer patients, reducing anxiety and the need for pain medication.
The early research was abandoned in the 1970s after a legal clampdown on the recreational use of hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD.
“Political and cultural pressures forced an end to these studies in the 1970s,” said Prof Grob. “We were able to revive this research under strict federal supervision and demonstrate that this is a field of study with great promise for alleviating anxiety and other psychiatric symptoms.”
All of the study volunteers had advanced cancers and were suffering from anxiety.
Volunteers were encouraged to lie in bed wearing eye shades and listening to music during the first few hours after their treatment.
Their progress was monitored over the next six months using standard screening tests for measuring anxiety and depression.
The researchers wrote in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry: “Safe physiological and psychological responses were documented during treatment sessions. We also observed no adverse psychological effects from the treatment.
“All subjects tolerated the treatment sessions well, with no indication of severe anxiety or a ‘bad trip’. Anxiety scores improved at one and three months after treatment.”
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