A study conducted by psychiatrist Charles Grob, a researcher at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, administered psilocybin — an active component of psychedelic mushrooms — to cancer patients near the end-of-life to see if it could reduce their fear of death. The research, completed in 2008 and published in the Archives of General Psychiatry in 2011, showed that the psychedelic could, in fact, be administered safely and reduce the anxiety and depression associated with the end-of-life.
Grob is not alone in his interest in the relationship between psychedelics and death-related emotions. Dr. John Halpern, head of the Laboratory for Integrative Psychiatry at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, used MDMA (ecstasy) to quell the anxiety in two patients with Stage 4 cancer. Ongoing studies at New York University’s medical school and Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center are using psilocybin with terminally-ill patients.
“This research is in its very early stages,” Grob told the New York Times, “but we’re getting consistently good results.”
Research into the healing power of psychedelics has seen a resurgence in recent years, with drugs like MDMA, psilocybin, and LSD tested for their effectiveness in treating symptoms of severe conditions like PTSD and alcoholism.
Grob and other researchers understand the possible concerns that surround the use of these controversial treatments, and they are careful about the image they cultivate in their research.”We’re trying to stay under the radar. We want to be anti-Leary,” Grob explained, referencing the famous experiments with psilocybin and LSD conducted by Dr. Timothy Leary in the 1960s. He considers the drug use that is associated with the ’60s as “out of control”, and ensures that his and colleagues’ research is not like that at all.
What do you think? The experimental use of otherwise illegal substances to treat patients understandably raises controversy. Still, if it can ease the mind and lead to greater comfort and quality at the end-of-life, might you be interested in trying the treatment for yourself or your loved ones?