Psilocybin Reduces Anxiety in Cancer Patients

It’s too soon to be sure, but the effect of the drug could be permanent.
Psilocybin, the active ingredient in psychoactive or "magic" mushrooms, has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression in cancer patients.
psilocybe-semilanceata Source: Sasata via wikimedia commons

In 2010, doctors diagnosed Dinah Bazer with ovarian cancer. After treatment and chemotherapy, it went into remission, but as the months wore on, she became increasingly terrified that the disease might return. Two years after diagnosis, she felt worse than ever. “The fear was eating me alive,” she says. “It was destroying my life.”

She heard about a study at New York University, where physicians were using psilocybin—the active ingredient in psychoactive mushrooms of the genus Psilocybe, referred to by some as magic mushrooms—to treat cancer patients struggling with extreme anxiety and depression. After being carefully screened, Bazer entered the study and got to know the psychologists running it during several therapy sessions. Then, one day, she was given a moderately high dose of psilocybin.

After feeling the drug kick in, she felt like she was lost at sea, afraid. One of her therapists held her hand, and this gave her mooring. She had a vision of her fear as a dark mass under her ribcage. It was consuming her. She became angry, furious. “Get the fuck out!” she screamed.  

A moment later, the fear was gone. “It completely evaporated,” she says.

Next, she felt transported to a place where she felt nothing but love. “I’m an atheist, but the best way to describe it—I felt bathed in God’s love… probably the most powerful emotion I’ve ever felt.”  

Four years later, the

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