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Studies: One Dose of "Psilocybin" from Magic Mushrooms Relieves Depression in 80% of Cancer Patients
New studies from NYU and John Hopkins University show the effectiveness of psilocybin in treating depression and anxiety of cancer patients.
The largest studies to date, by arguably the most respected institutions up to this point, show that psilocybin, a compound within "magic mushrooms", can be effective in treating depression and anxiety in cancer patients.
The studies were carried out on 29 patients by researchers at New York University (NYU) and on 51 patients at Johns Hopkins University.
Notably, up to 40% of all cancer patients are afflicted by psychological issues related to their illness.
Around 80% of the cancer patients in the studies got noticeably better after just one dose. And they sustained the psychological gains they made for up to seven months, with few minor side effects. Patients reported improvements in their quality of life, having more energy, going out more and having better relationships with family members.
Interestingly, those who had a stronger trip reported the strongest gains in alleviating their depression and anxiety.
A number of authorities in psychiatry and addiction medicine expressed their support for the work. These include Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, a former president of the American Psychiatric Association and Dr. Daniel Shalev from the New York State Psychiatric Institute, who wrote that the studies are ”a model for revisiting criminalized compounds of interest in a safe, ethical way.”
The studies were also reviewed by regulators and were described by the New York Times as "most meticulous" to date.
The lead author of the Johns Hopkins study, psychiatrist Dr. Roland Griffiths, was optimistic on the possibilities of the new treatment, likening it to a groundbreaking surgery rather than the painstaking work to make feel people better used by traditional psychiatric approaches.
“I really don’t think we have any models in psychiatry that look like” the effects demonstrated in the two trials, said Griffiths. “Something occurs and it’s repaired and it’s better going forward … very plausibly for more than six months,” he added. “In that sense it’s a new model.”
One of the participants in the study, Sherry Marcy, described the changes in how she felt this way:
"The cloud of doom seemed to just lift… I got back in touch with my family and kids, and my wonder at life," said Marcy, whose been battling cancer from 2010. "Before, I was sitting alone at home, and I couldn't move … This study made a huge difference, and it's persisted."
Psilocybin-containing "magic mushrooms". Credit: Getty Images.
The particulars of both studies involved randomly offering patients either psilocybin or a placebo at the first session, and then giving them the opposite treatment seven weeks later. This way all participants eventually took psilocybin. In both studies, the success rate of psilocybin versus the placebo was very clear, with 83% getting better on psilocybin and only 14% on the placebo in the NYU study.
Psilocybin, of course, have been banned in the U.S. for over 40 years. While they were allowed to use it for their studies, the scientists warn against self-medicating depression by taking "magic mushrooms". They caution that professionals are needed to control the dosage and provide a supportive environment in which to experience the drug's effects. The psilocybin therapy may also not be appropriate for people with schizophrenia or young adults.
To move forward in this field, Dr. Shalev and Dr. Lieberman see a need to loosen research restrictions, because "there is much potential for new scientific insights and clinical applications.” Ideally, the next step would be a trial with a larger sample, perhaps across several centers with hundreds of subjects.
Not everyone is on board. Dr. William Breitbart, chairman of the psychiatry department at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center expressed his reservations about the use of cancer patients for the study.
“Medical marijuana got its foot in the door by making the appeal that ‘cancer patients are suffering, they’re near death, so for compassionate purposes, let’s make it available,’ ” he said. “And then you’re able to extend this drug to other purposes.”
The positive effect of psilocybin on depression was also demonstrated by studies earlier this year.
Cover photo credit: Langone Medical Center/New York University.
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A scientist in Sweden makes a controversial presentation at a future of food conference.
- A behavioral scientist from Sweden thinks cannibalism of corpses will become necessary due to effects of climate change.
- He made the controversial presentation to Swedish TV during a "Future of Food" conference in Stockholm.
- The scientist acknowledges the many taboos this idea would have to overcome.
Depiction of cannibalism in the Medieval ages.
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President Vladimir Putin announces approval of Russia's coronavirus vaccine but scientists warn it may be unsafe.
A new coronavirus vaccine on display at the Nikolai Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, Russia.
Credit: Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr/ Russian Direct Investment Fund via AP
Medical workers draw blood from volunteers participating in a trial of a coronavirus vaccine at the Budenko Main Military Hospital outside Moscow, Russia.
Credit: Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP
A report from the New York Times raises questions over how the teletherapy startup Talkspace handles user data.
- In the report, several former employees said that "individual users' anonymized conversations were routinely reviewed and mined for insights."
- Talkspace denied using user data for marketing purposes, though it acknowledged that it looks at client transcripts to improve its services.
- It's still unclear whether teletherapy is as effective as traditional therapy.
Talkspace.com<p>Former employees also questioned the legitimacy of certain interventions by the company into client-therapist interactions. For example, after one therapist sent a client a link to an online anxiety worksheet, a company representative instructed her to try to keep clients inside the app.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"I was like, 'How do you know I did that?'" Karissa Brennan, a therapist who worked with Talkspace from 2015 to 2017, told the Times. "They said it was private, but it wasn't."</p><p>Other former employees said the company would pay special attention to its "enterprise partner" clients, who worked at companies like Google. One therapist said Talkspace contacted her for taking too long to respond to Google clients.</p><p>Talkspace responded to the Times with a Medium <a href="https://medium.com/@founders_22883/talkspace-founders-respond-to-a-new-york-times-article-78d6f5c45c59" target="_blank">post</a>, which claimed the Times report contained false and "uninformed assertions."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Talkspace is a HIPAA/HITECH and SOC2 approved platform, audited annually by external vendors, and has deployed additional technologies to keep its data safe, exceeding all existing regulatory requirements," the post states.</p>