Archive for Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Report: Magic mushroom ingredient helps cancer patients

September 7, 2010

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— The psychedelic drug psilocybin, the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms,” can improve mood and reduce anxiety and depression in terminal cancer patients, Los Angeles researchers reported Monday.

A single modest dose of the hallucinogen, whose reputation was severely tarnished by widespread nonmedical use in the psychedelic ’60s and ethical lapses by researchers such as Timothy Leary, can improve patients’ functioning for as long as six months, allowing them to spend their last days with more peace, researchers said.

The research was a pilot study involving only 12 patients, but it is viewed as a first step in restoring the drug to respectability.

“This is a landmark study in many ways,” said Dr. Stephen Ross, clinical director of the Center of Excellence on Addiction at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, who was not involved in the research. “This is the first time a paper like this has come out in a prestigious psychiatric journal in 40 years.”

The research conducted on psychedelic drugs in the 1950s and ’60s “was promising, but by no means did it reach the kinds of scientific standards that we would expect today,” said behavioral biologist Roland Griffiths of Johns Hopkins University, who was also not involved in the study.

The new research “is just a pilot study and really needs to be considered preliminary, but it demonstrates that such research can be conducted safely and that doses have palliative effects,” Griffiths said.

Ross and Griffiths have ongoing studies examining the use of psilocybin in cancer patients, but Dr. Charles Grob, a psychiatrist at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, is the first to report results.

Grob and his colleagues studied 12 patients, ages 36 to 58, with advanced-stage cancer and anxiety resulting from their diagnoses. Each patient went through two sessions, one in which he or she was given the drug and another with a placebo, the drug niacin, which provokes a physiological but not a psychological reaction. Although the doses were blinded, about 80 percent of the time both patients and physicians could tell which drug patients were getting.

Psilocybin is illegal and listed in the same class of drugs as LSD and heroin, according to the Department of Justice.

Comments

lounger 4 years, 6 months ago

"Timothy Leary is Dead, No, no, no, no he's outside looking in.."

He must be turning in his grave saying "I told you so...."

mbulicz 4 years, 6 months ago

We've spent how many billions on the war on drugs, and yet this is the first article of its kind to be published in 40 years? It's Orwellian to think that millions of Americans have gone to prison because these substances have "no medicinal benefit", and yet we haven't even researched whether they do have a legitimate medicinal benefit.

American law makes it extremely difficult for researchers to acquire and study these substances, which means that we are in effect exporting an entire unexplored field of pharmacy and psychiatry.

For instance, there was a recent overseas study about utilizing MDMA (ecstasy) as a psychotherapy aid. There were remarkable long-term advances in patients who used the substance in a controlled, monitored setting. The patients did not have to continue to be dosed. They simply went into normal psychotherapy sessions after a small dose of the drug.

We don't hear about this on the evening news, though. Instead, we hear over and over about the study that "showed" MDMA made holes in the brain - but it never made headlines when that study was debunked, retracted, never replicated, and found to contain impossible (read: fabricated) data.

I'm not advocating widespread use of these drugs. Nor am I discounting the negative effects and addictions these substances may cause. I'm just advocating an honest, evidence-based discussion of any positive effects and uses they may have in a controlled environment under the supervision of a professional.

grammaddy 4 years, 6 months ago

Of curse Psilocybin is illegal. Anything that might actually help usually is. Big Pharma has too much power.

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