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The Magic of Mushrooms – Psilocybin Effectively Reduces Depression/Anxiety in Cancer Patients

Fun fact: human beings have been enjoying psychedelic mushrooms for tens of thousands of years.

Rock paintings in North Africa dating back to 9000 BC portray indigenous people using psychedelic mushrooms. They are depicted (along with peyote and other magic cacti) in many Aztec and Mayan sculptures, and were referred to by Aztecs as teonanácatl, meaning “flesh of the gods.” Hallucinogenic mushrooms are one of our oldest substances, and there is a very good reason why.

They have been considered sacred across history by many cultures and many faiths, and to this day psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) remains bound to spirituality. Even casual users often attest to the awe-inspiring revelations, or personal visions that these funny little fungi can proffer. There’s something deep about mushroom trips – that is no secret.

Well, it seems like the scientific community is finally starting to catch on. There has been a significant increase in medical testing of psychedelics around the world. But, in the most recent study, scientists and psychologists have concluded that psilocybin definitively decreased depression and anxiety in cancer patients. According to two studies, published December 2016, only a single dose of the drug and over half of the patients in the studies experienced “rapid and sustained symptom reduction” for diagnosed anxiety and depression.

This is big news. Not because the findings are necessarily new – many psychologists, scientists, and doctors have recognized the depression reducing effects of psychedelics over the years – but because it is a big step forward for the perception of magic mushrooms.

Since psychedelics made their first appearance in the US back in the 50’s, our government has taken a strict policy against them. They were portrayed as dangerous drugs, highly addictive in nature, with strange and terrifying effects on the user. All of which is nonsense (…except maybe the ‘strange’ part). The film Reefer Madness encapsulates that zeitgeist. So, naturally, many Americans began to fear psychedelics, and to perceive them as dangerous, dirty. All of a sudden, magic mushrooms, a totally natural substance, which had been considered religious throughout much of human history, became the drug of scum…

Perhaps that era may be coming to an end now, because these studies could do a lot to change that impression. When doctors and scientists have proof that a non-addictive, organic substance can help cancer patients cope with serious illness and the emotional turbulence that accompanies it, the public will start to think of magic mushrooms differently. And that is a big first step.

It is no wonder the cultures that used magic mushrooms considered them mystical and transcendent. While they may sometimes force the user to confront their fears or inner-turmoil, they almost always offer a taste of something unexplainable…

Dinah Bazer, one of the patients in the study, who suffered from ovarian cancer, explained it thusly:

“I’m an atheist, but the best way to describe it – I felt bathed in God’s love… it was the most powerful emotion I’ve ever felt.”

For over two years she had been suffering from extreme anxiety that her illness, which had gone into remission, was going to come back. The fear was eating her alive – destroying her life. After ingesting her dose of psilocybin Dinah said that she felt as if she was lost at sea, and had a vision of her fear, amassed darkly beneath her rib cage.

Get the f**k out!” She shrieked, as her therapist held her hand, gently reassuring her.

And it did, Dinah claims. She said that it felt as if the anxiety simply melted away, evaporated from within her.

Dinah Bazer wasn’t the only patient to experience this kind of relief, not by a long shot. Study leader and director of physician psychiatry at NYU, Dr. Steven Ross, was amazed. If he had seen results in one or two of the patients, he would have remained doubtful…

“But seeing this 20 to 30 times, I thought: This is Amazing. It’s a real effect.”

It seems there is, after all, something magical about these mushrooms. Hopefully, these scientific tests continue to prove that, and perhaps in the near future we may understand a vast spectrum of benefits for psilocybin. Should that happen, the status of their legality might be prone to finally change. But until then, I suppose we will just have to continue our own personal research and experimentation. Let the going get weird…


Will Brendza
Will Brendza is a freelance journalist and aimless adventurer based out of the Rocky Mountains, a fearless student of science and a keen outdoorsman. After having witnessed firsthand the environmental abominations taking place both abroad and at home in the US, he resolved to spread the knowledge and drive for global sustainability. When he isn't writing or reading a good book, he can usually be found exploring foreign countries, savoring craft breweries or somewhere deep within the wilderness of Colorado."

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