In June 2015 we reported on the re-emerging field of using psychedelics to treat mental illness, with psilocybin, in particular, showing great promise for chronic anxiety and depression. Western medicine began realizing its potential in the 1940s, but medical research was stamped out with the War on Drugs.
Now, as the injustice of the drug war is fully exposed, research is again turning to the amazing, natural power of psilocybin. William Richards at Johns Hopkins University has been dosing people with psilocybin for 15 years, and in 2006 published his first study demonstrating positive therapeutic results.
That study provided the impetus for a rapid expansion in psychedelic research. On December 1, results of the first two major clinical trials were published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology – showing yet again psilocybin’s remarkable effect on depression and end-of-life stress.
Rapid and sustained symptom reduction following psilocybin treatment for anxiety and depression in patients with life-threatening cancer: a randomized controlled trial
Psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer: A randomized double-blind trial
Authors of the first study summarize their results as follows:
“Prior to the crossover, psilocybin produced immediate, substantial, and sustained improvements in anxiety and depression and led to decreases in cancer-related demoralization and hopelessness, improved spiritual wellbeing, and increased quality of life. At the 6.5-month follow-up, psilocybin was associated with enduring anxiolytic and anti-depressant effects (approximately 60–80% of participants continued with clinically significant reductions in depression or anxiety), sustained benefits in existential distress and quality of life, as well as improved attitudes towards death. The psilocybin-induced mystical experience mediated the therapeutic effect of psilocybin on anxiety and depression.”
Authors of the second study concluded:
“…a single dose of psilocybin produced substantial and enduring decreases in depressed mood and anxiety along with increases in quality of life and decreases in death anxiety in patients with a life-threatening cancer diagnosis. Ratings by patients themselves, clinicians, and community observers suggested these effects endured at least 6 months. The overall rate of clinical response at 6 months on clinician-rated depression and anxiety was 78% and 83%, respectively.”
In both studies, there were no serious adverse events, although less than 18 percent of patients experienced some degree of nausea, headache or other symptoms that did not require medical intervention.
The experience for some patients was nothing short of amazing. Dinah Bazer, diagnosed with ovarian cancer, was consumed with fear and anxiety. However, the psilocybin treatment allowed her to visualize her fear as a physical mass which she confronted and expelled.
Bazer is a self-proclaimed atheist, but she described her subsequent state of mind in spiritual terms.
“I was bathed in God’s love, and that continued for hours,” said Bazer. “I really had no other way to describe this incredibly powerful experience.”
Her fear, depression, and anxiety have not returned.
This mystical experience is characteristic of many patients in the clinical setting, and can be truly life-changing in a positive way. It can be described as the opposite of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), where a single event has a lasting negative effect on the mental state.
This is why Roland Griffiths, lead author of one of the aforementioned studies, says the psilocybin treatment is like a “surgical intervention.”
Scientists and doctors wrote 10 commentaries in the journal about the importance of the new clinical trials.
“To many people brought up on the Reagan drug-war era with the ‘drugs fry your brain’ message, psilocybin may seem a strange and possibly even a dangerous drug treatment of serious mental illness,” wrote David Nutt, a neuropsychopharmacologist at Imperial College London, in an editorial. But the high quality of the research and the strong support shown for it—the “list of the commentators reads like a Who’s Who of American and European psychiatry”—should “reassure any waverers that this use of psilocybin is well within the accepted scope of modern psychiatry,” Nutt adds.
Like cannabis, federal government stands in the way of research by listing psilocybin as a Schedule 1 drug, which severely hampers the ease with which researchers can procure the substance and test it. The war on drugs is a war on people. The real crime is government’s continued denial of this miraculous treatment to suffering people because of a drug war borne of racism and political corruption.