‘Magic mushroom’ drug lifted ‘cloud of doom’ for cancer patients – CNN

‘Magic mushroom’ drug lifted ‘cloud of doom’ for cancer patients – CNN

“Patrick Mettes was overcome with frustration. He was anxious.

His bile duct cancer seemed to bring him more anguish than his wife, Lisa Callaghan, ever realized, she said at a news conference Wednesday.

In search of solace, Mettes volunteered for a study in which he was given a synthetic version of psilocybin, a compound found in mind-altering “magic mushrooms,” as a potential treatment for his anxiety and depressed mood.

During the study, Mettes’ psychedelic trip was akin to “a space shuttle launch that begins with the clunky trappings of Earth, then gives way to the weightlessness and majesty of space,” Callaghan said, recalling what Mettes wrote in a journal entry.

“I believe it helped him, and both of us, live life fully up to the very end,” she said.

Mettes later suffered a massive heart attack. He survived but decided to stop chemotherapy. The Brooklyn, New York-based television news director, whose portfolio included CNN’s “American Morning,” died at the age of 56 in 2012.

Callaghan believes the psilocybin helped Mettes overcome his fear of death, she said.

“He was not afraid of death, and in fact, he seemed to grow through the process of dying,” she said of her late husband. “My brother was with us quite a bit during that time and says that he felt that Patrick’s spirit grew as his body declined.

Other cancer patients who participated in the study, which was led by researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center, reported similar experiences and described psilocybin as beneficial in easing anxiety and depression. Similar findings also were found in a separate study conducted at Johns Hopkins University.

Both studies, accompanied by 10 commentaries and an editorial, were published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology on Thursday.

They shed new light on psilocybin as a possible anti-anxiety and antidepressant therapy in patients with cancer, a disease that is diagnosed in more than 1 million people in the United States each year.

‘It was kind of magic’

Fifty-one patients with a potentially life-threatening cancer diagnosis volunteered to participate in the Johns Hopkins study. All of them also had a diagnosis of anxiety, mixed anxiety and depressed mood, dysthymic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder or a dual diagnosis.

The patients were randomly given either a high or very low, placebo-like dose of psilocybin. Then they were given the opposite dose about five weeks later.

The patients were administered the psilocybin while in a living room-like environment, and they were closely monitored. No serious adverse reactions, such as hospitalization or mental health conditions, occurred.

Nausea or vomiting occurred in 15% of participants in the high-dose session and none in the low-dose session. An episode of physical discomfort occurred in 21% of participants in the high-dose session and 8% in the low-dose session.

The researchers found that the high-dose psilocybin resulted in significant decreases in both clinician-rated and self-reported measures of depressed mood and anxiety among the patients. The effects lasted in 78% of patients for depression and 83% for anxiety in a follow-up assessment six months later.

“These effects appear to be sustained in our study at least six or seven weeks and very plausibly more than six months,” Roland Griffiths, a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Johns Hopkins Medicine and lead author of the study, said at the news conference.”

By , CNN

Read the full CNN article by Jacqueline Howard here