In 2010, doctors diagnosed Dinah Bazer with ovarian cancer. After treatment and chemotherapy, it went into remission. As the weeks and months came and went, she became overtly terrified that the disease would return. Two years later, her fear was crippling her mind.
She then heard of a study which was being conducted at New York University. Physicians were using psilocybin, the active ingredient in psychoactive mushrooms of the genus Psilocybe (also referred to as ‘magic mushrooms’) to treat cancer patients 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…
“The fear was eating me alive. It was destroying me.” – says Bazer of her depression due to cancer treatment
What happened next was a transformative experience that helped Dinah deal through her depression and anxiety and ultimately with her fear of death. Dinah could look at life in a larger scope and understand that things were going to ‘be ok’.
Four years later, the anxiety has yet to return. She feels happy to be alive and does things she could not do before, like making new friends, meditating, and simply slowing down. Dinah explains:
“It really changed everything for me. I’m so much more active, so much more able to reach out. I feel like I belong in the world.”
In another case, a man from Las Vegas named Octavian Mihai was also suffering from anxiety and depression due to his lymphoma treatments. He entered a study at the NYU Langone Medical Center. Like Dinah, he was given a moderately high dose of psilocybin. He then described a very similar experience.
In both trials, the intensity of the mystical experience described by patients correlated with the degree to which their depression and anxiety decreased.
Furthermore, two long-awaited studies published December 2016 in the Journal of Psychopharmacology attest to this. One conducted at NYU involved 29 patients and another at Johns Hopkins University, which involved 51 patients.
Both studies followed similar protocols, and both found that after being given psilocybin, 80 percent of patients experienced a dramatic decrease in anxiety and depression that lasted for six months or more. In some cases, as in Bazer’s, it appears to be permanent. Both the patients and their psychiatric evaluators concur that these people are considerably more optimistic, feel their lives are filled with more meaning and experience an overall better quality of life.
If research restrictions could be eased, there is much potential for new scientific insight and clinical applications for psilocybin. Although unfortunately cancer patients will not have access to therapeutically administered psilocybin anytime soon, the findings add much needed credibility to applications requesting to expand research such as multicentre trials involving hundreds of participants (via Minds).