psilocybin

People facing a life-threatening cancer diagnosis may struggle with more than the medical treatment. They sometimes experience an existential crisis, in which life loses its meaning. In such situations, anxiety and depression may overwhelm and paralyze them. To address this problem, some psychiatrists decided to see whether the hallucinogenic compound psilocybin could make a difference.

How Psilocybin Helps:

We speak with a psychiatrist who has studied the effect of this hallucinogenic drug in a therapeutic setting. He and his colleagues had noted that a strong spiritual foundation seems to protect people from existential despair. They found that a dose of psilocybin under carefully controlled circumstances could help people find new meaning in life.

Psilocybin as Entheogen:

Under these conditions, the psychedelic experience (which was often arduous rather than pleasant) seemed to help people discover or re-discover their spiritual bearings. Sometimes experts describe psilocybin as an entheogen-a means to discover the divine spark within.

This Week’s Guest:

Jeffrey Guss, MD, is a Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine and is a Senior Faculty member of the Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse in NYU’s Department of Psychiatry. He is the Director of Psychedelic Psychotherapy Training for the NYU Psilocybin and Cancer Anxiety Study and also served as an Investigator and therapist with the study. Dr. Guss maintains a full time practice of psychotherapy and psychiatry in New York City.

He and his colleagues published their findings in December, 2016, in the Journal of Psychopharmacology: “Rapid and sustained symptom reduction following psilocybin treatment for anxiety and depression in patients with life-threatening cancer: a randomized controlled trial.”  The Johns Hopkins researchers published their research in the same journal: “Psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer: A randomized double-blind trial.

Listen to the Podcast:

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Air Date:June 24, 2017

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  1. Aaron
    Oregon
    Reply

    I listened to the whole broadcast, and that’s interesting that psilocybin might help some people to cope with a terminal illness. But, there’s a whole other side to hallucinogens that the People’s Pharmacy isn’t reporting.

    I took psilocybin a handful of times in my 20’s, and I saw a lot of strange visual illusions, which is common, like walls that were “breathing,” or the fibers of my carpet moving around like worms. I didn’t have bad trips per se, but it was unsettling and anxiety-provoking. So, I stopped and never used psychedelics again, after only having used them 4 or 5 times total. Years later, I started having similar visual illusions, except that I WASN’T ON ANY DRUG, legal or illegal! It was like my eyes could no longer “unsee” what I had seen on psychedelics, and it scared the hell out of me. I’ve been having the same visual disturbances ever since and it’s been DECADES since I took the psilocybin. This has caused me to develop intense anxiety and depression that is almost unmanageable.

    I later found out this is a well-documented medical condition called hallucinogen persisting perception disorder, or HPPD, and it is a lot more common than people realize. Many well-respected doctors, including Dr. Henry Abraham of Tufts University, have studied and reported on this condition, and many medical journals and periodicals have reported on it. HPPD is a well-established DSM-5 diagnosis. This isn’t some kind of government “Don’t do drugs” propaganda. It’s very real and can eventually lead many sufferers to suicide.

    I would strongly encourage everyone reading this to only consider using psilocybin if you are close to death, and have tried everything else. I also urge the People’s Pharmacy to report on this, in the interest of being responsible and balanced. I deeply regret ever having touched psilocybin, and I have been paying a heavy price ever since. Thousands of others are also suffering. Here’s more info:

    http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/a-trip-that-doesnt-end

    http://www.neurologytimes.com/review-article/when-party%E2%80%99s-over%E2%80%94-case-hppd

    https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-27/edition-9/when-trip-doesnt-end

    http://www.dana.org/News/Details.aspx?id=43275

  2. Mary
    Reply

    CBD & THC seems to also have healing qualities for those with this kind of problem. A test run might be beneficial. Maybe your state will allow access? Some do for medical reasons, beside Colorado.

  3. John
    West Virginia
    Reply

    I am an ordained clergy person in a main-line denomination. I hold a Master of Divinity as well as a Dr. of Ministry degree and have done a lot of academic and practical work in the area of prayer and spirituality. I consider myself a Christian mystic. I also applied to be part of the religious professionals study group Dr. Guss mentioned but was not accepted into the group because I was about to transition out of my current service to the church and did not know if I would be employed throughout the course of the study.

    I found show #1084 informative and insightful. I listened to parts of it several times as I was gathering quotes to possibly use someday in a sermon or two.

    Those who want to follow up on spiritual experiences such as Dr. Guss was talking about might want to consider many of the the writings of Mircea Eliade and Carl Jung as well as Rudolph Otto’s book The Idea of the Holy in which he discusses the concept of the “mysterium tremendum.”

  4. Chris Nielsen
    Minneapolis, MN
    Reply

    The range of replies to this topic is pretty interesting. It seems that run from those that have no experience with psylocybin to those that have had extensive experience.

    psylocybin is not a cancer cure and the mushrooms are not physically addictive. The experience that you can have in a POSITIVE setting with support that understands their effects can be pleasant or even enlightening. Just be warned that like most of these kind of substances they may magnify feelings, thoughts, and emotions. I don’t know that I would want to take psylocybin if I was already sick or in pain. On the other hand, if I was terminal I may not have much to lose either. If you have not experience a psychedelic drug then there is nothing anyone can say to prepare you for the experience. Do as much research as possible, then decide.

  5. Pete
    Apex, NC
    Reply

    It’s my understanding that the (vast) majority of the time a user of “hallucinogenic” drugs does not suffer a true hallucination in which they lack insight: they are simultaneously aware what they are sensing is part of the drug experience while marveling at how “real it seems”. This is a crucial difference to do with at least one source of danger associated with these drugs.

  6. TAZ
    WI, USA
    Reply

    After listening to the radio show I began to think of another group of people who would benefit from this treatment, with an added benefit to society at large – prison inmates and those scheduled for release from prisons. The effects of the treatment could be described as a profound and lasting “attitude adjustment,” which is precisely what is needed by those whose negative way of seeing the world has landed them in confinement.

    Recidivism would very likely drop dramatically in those who are released, benefitting both themselves and all of us. For those not being released, a more positive and loving way of seeing things would improve the emotional atmosphere inside the prison, leading to less violence and a setting more conducive to rehabilitation. Widespread application of this treatment (voluntary, of course) for the criminally inclined could transform the criminal justice system and, with it, our society.

    • Emwardo
      Little Falls, MN
      Reply

      A good paying job and enough money to live on would also help. A positive attitude is great but you need enough cash to survive or you will go right back to crime. The prison industrial complex is counting on this of course to continue getting big fat government contracts. This is how the game is played. There is no support for inmates once they leave “correctional” facility’s. They want them to fail!

  7. Everett
    Dallas
    Reply

    Please, please, please – is there someone in the Dallas area that can recommend such treatment? I am one of those people who is so desperate after twenty years of trying to follow the pharmaceutical protocols that are simply ineffective for me. I have NEVER done what have until now been considered to be recreational drugs, but I am so tired of waiting to be something other than an existing body – so tired of not experiencing the engagement and joy that I see happening all around me. Please, please, please, anyone in the Dallas area?

  8. Bob
    Michigan
    Reply

    I always find these conversations fascinating. From Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert to clinical trials at John Hopkins, the psychic change is usually attributed to the drug and not the person themselves. Thought patterns are deeply ingrained and resistant to change. Anything we do to break the negative patterns enables us to find a more productive and useful pattern but first we must BREAK THE PATTERN causing our discomfort. Fast and pray for three days, read the Bible through, meditate, force yourself to exercise, take a mind-altering drug, all can be useful to facilitate a change given the right circumstances.
    I am happy to read that Diane was able to find some relief. I would hope anyone in her situation could find a release. A chemical change in the brain does not necessarily produce a “spiritual experience”. My reality is a product of my mind and physics. I may believe I can fly, but so far in my life physics has kept me on the ground.
    I am a firm believer in spirituality as experienced by human beings whatever that may mean to each of us. I also believe we have an incredible ability to change our worldview and therefore our experiences. I have found that I generally believe whatever I tell myself. May we all find what we need, through whatever experiences we need to get there.

  9. Karen
    Durham, NC
    Reply

    I recently returned from a psilocybin retreat in Jamaica – where Psilocybin is legal. I was provided with psilocybin and safely guided through my experience by Eric S. Osborne, founder of Mycomeditations (contact information below).

    I was extremely fortunate to find information on psilocybin through Diane, a person who recently joined Durham’s Cornucopia late stage cancer support group. Diane provided not only information about her experience with psilocybin but also information on psilocybin studies – including a recent study at John’s Hopkins. Even if I had known about psilocybin, I would not have known how to get access to it without information from Diane about MycoMeditations. Both Eric and Diane are copied on this note.

    I wanted to send this quickly so you are aware that the psilocybin IS available and there is a company with extensive knowledge of psilocybin, great respect for mushrooms and the healing benefits. People can benefit now. I wonder if you address this as part of your show or if you can address it.

    My experience was life changing. I have energy, a sense of purpose and joy in my heart. I am no longer on the Antidepressant, Ritalin, Valium Cocktail that wasn’t helping me. I am happy and living. I am no longer dying. I am laughing regularly.

    My biggest hurdle, because of the late stage cancer, was knowing I would be in a comfortable setting with air-conditioning if needed and access to comfortable accommodations and healthy food. Before deciding to jump on a flight to Jamaica, I had to KNOW this. I wanted to be clear that I am not a young person who wants to party. I wanted it to be clear that I am sick and need help. I spoke with Eric on the phone and was reassured that he is not in the business of partying but in the business of helping people. He is passionate about helping others. Diane was also instrumental in helping me understand that I would be comfortable in this setting in Treasure Beach Jamaica..

    I did have to taper from Lexapro and Wellbutrin which was a nightmare and a whole different story. I am still suffering from with-drawl symptoms which change regularly. I am starting to see the light at the end of that tunnel and I am grateful for that.

    Eric S. Osborne
    Founder MycoMeditations (www.mycomeditations.com)
    Executive Director PLEDG (www.pledg.org)
    502-821-3007
    https://www.mycomeditations.com/

  10. Mary Jane
    NYC
    Reply

    While I’m not opposed to psilocybin (I’ve used it myself), it seems that we should look to address spiritual issues in ways other than drugs. We already use drugs to address everything else, and many now recognize that addiction to legal drugs is a problem.

  11. Diane
    North Carolina
    Reply

    I am a 58 year old retired small business owner (Chef/Owner of Home On the Range Catering in Chapel Hill, NC, for 20 years) forced into early retirement by cancer, and the traumatic effects, both physical and mental, of the treatment of cancer. I had gone from a person who worked 12 hours/day 6 days/week, hiked, camped, and fished to a person so immobilized by depression, anxiety, and grinding fatigue that I relied on a daily cocktail of Ritalin, Ativan, Tramadol, and whatever antidepressants my therapist was currently trying out on me to flail my body into just being able to feed the cats and water the plants. I was desperate, as a person with Stage 4 Cancer, not to live out whatever time I had left like a drugged vegetable, unable to do the things on my bucket list, crying all the time, thinking only of cancer returning.

    A friend gave me Michael Pollan’s New Yorker article, “The Trip Treatment,” which contained information about the clinical trial research that had been done at Johns Hopkins and NYU, showing psilocybin (psychedelic mushrooms) to lift, with durability, depression & anxiety suffered by Stage 4 Cancer patients. But how to find the mushrooms? I found a psilocybin assisted retreat, MycoMeditations, in Jamaica, through a Google search. Magic mushrooms are legal in Jamaica. Impressed and reassured by the healing intent, the serious emphasis placed on set and setting, and the capabilities of the facilitators at MycoMeditations, I decided to go to Jamaica.

    From my first session with the mushrooms, my depression and anxiety lifted and I had no use, craving or need for the drugs I had been taking. My energy returned, the fatigue was gone. And those were just the physical results. The spiritual experience of the sessions was and continues to be almost incommunicable. I’d read that: “Psilocybin ecstasy is a rapture whose breadth and depth is the despair of prose” and that was true for me. That said, it was not a recreational experience, it was hard but absolutely joyous work and continues to be so as I integrate the sessions into everyday life. And it has implications that you would never think about until you experience it–for the culture as a whole, for the health of the planet. The people facilitating these retreats are serious men, yet playful and wise….just like the mushrooms. It is their life’s work. They make you feel, as you are, totally safe and cared for. It will remain one of the most significant events of my lifetime. I only wish young people, healthy people, really all people, could benefit from the life affirming lessons of psilocybin mushrooms.

  12. Jane
    Reply

    People forced to start thinking about their afterlife don’t need hallucinations. They need the truth. Are they ready to meet their maker? Not if they’re worried about it. But their worry shows us that they do believe they have a responsibility to be ready. Just show them John 3:16-18 in the Holy Bible (Word of God) and let them make their own personal choice of eternal destination. It can be quite comforting to make the right choice and look forward to eternal life in heaven.

  13. Willa
    North Carolina
    Reply

    I heard promo for this & got interested immediately. I used to do psychedelics, acid, psylocybin & mescaline. My small group of friends preferred the more “natural” derivitives since LSD was often mixed with speed & other harsh chemicals. I noticed that I, who’ve had a close to life-long battle with anxiety & depression, felt very calm during this phase of my life (early 20’s). I actually thought: if I get diagnosed with a fatal disease someday, I will eat psychedelics & be OK.

    Those drugs can yield terrifying & ugly trips, but when you come out you feel very settled & able to face pretty much anything. I used to work with terminal patients at the end of their lives. People told me their stories & I was honored to witness these.

    One young man told me of a “trip” he took on an island beach at sunset. He was totally at peace. I’m glad I could fully appreciate the beauty of his experience in a non-judgemental way. People used to say:”God is alive & living in a sugar cube”. (Liquid LSD was put on the cube to consume it.) I wouldn’t argue with that. It’s been many decades since I took such drugs & would do it again without hesitation should I face such end of life issues. The legality isn’t remotely a factor. I hope your program & the studies you site will open the discussion about the benefits of psychedelic drugs.

  14. Diane
    North Carolina
    Reply

    I am a 58 year old retired small business owner (Chef/Owner of Home On the Range Catering in Chapel Hill, NC, for 20 years) forced into early retirement by cancer, and the traumatic effects, both physical and mental, of the treatment of cancer. I had gone from a person who worked 12 hours/day 6 days/week, hiked, camped, and fished to a person so immobilized by depression, anxiety, and grinding fatigue that I relied on a daily cocktail of Ritalin, Ativan, Tramadol, and whatever antidepressants my therapist was currently trying out on me to flail my body into just being able to feed the cats and water the plants. I was desperate, as a person with Stage 4 Cancer, not to live out whatever time I had left like a drugged vegetable, unable to do the things on my bucket list, crying all the time, thinking only of cancer returning.

    A friend gave me Michael Pollan’s New Yorker article, “The Trip Treatment,” which contained information about the clinical trial research that had been done at Johns Hopkins and NYU, showing psilocybin (psychedelic mushrooms) to lift, with durability, depression & anxiety suffered by Stage 4 Cancer patients. I found MycoMeditations through a Google search. Impressed and reassured by the healing intent, the serious emphasis placed on set and setting, and the capabilities of the facilitators at MycoMeditations, I decided to go to Jamaica.

    From my first session with the mushrooms, my depression and anxiety lifted and I had no use, craving or need for the drugs I had been taking. My energy returned, the fatigue was gone. And those were just the physical results. The spiritual experience of the sessions was and continues to be almost incommunicable. I’d read that: “Psilocybin ecstasy is a rapture whose breadth and depth is the despair of prose” and that was true for me. That said, it was not a recreational experience, it was hard but absolutely joyous work and continues to be so as I integrate the sessions into everyday life. And it has implications that you would never think about until you experience it–for the culture as a whole, for the health of the planet. The people facilitating these retreats are serious men, yet playful and wise….just like the mushrooms. It is their life’s work. They make you feel, as you are, totally safe and cared for. It will remain one of the most significant events of my lifetime. I only wish young people, healthy people, really all people, could benefit from the life affirming lessons of psilocybin mushrooms.

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