Mesothelioma is a rare, aggressive form of cancer that is resistant to many standard cancer treatments. Currently there is no known cure for the disease, and the average survival time varies from 4 – 18 months after diagnosis. Many mesothelioma patients facing this prognosis become overwhelmed and depressed as they fight to improve their survival, but are forced to face their mortality at the same time. Now researchers say the use of psilocybin, an hallucinogen found in “magic mushrooms,” may be safe and effective for improving a patient’s mood and reducing anxiety.
Various studies have been conducted that show the power of the mind-body connection where positive thinking results in the improvement in a patient’s health. Many physicians believe that when there is an improvement in a patient’s mood and outlook on the illness the patient can recover more quickly from surgery and other treatments.
In a separate study related to palliative care, Massachusetts General Hospital researchers found that an increased survival rate in patients receiving palliative care was partially due to the patients improved mood and quality of life. When feeling better emotionally, mesothelioma patients may see an improvement in their energy levels, mental acuity, sleep patterns and breathing even while undergoing treatments.
In order to test the effectiveness of psilocybin, researchers conducted a study with 12 adults with advanced-stage cancer who were experiencing anxiety. The patients were treated in two sessions in which they received a moderate dose of the drug during the first session and a placebo in the second. The patients did not know whether they were receiving the hallucinogen or the placebo.
After closely monitoring the patients before and after each treatment, and frequently throughout a six month period, researchers determined that psilocybin appeared safe, with no reports of “adverse psychological effects such as severe anxiety, and the treatment was well tolerated.” Most importantly, patients showed reduced anxiety and an improved mood, which lasted for six months.
The results led researchers to conclude that psilocybin may be an effective treatment for patients with advanced-stage cancer in reducing anxiety and in improving a patient’s mood. They did caution that further research is necessary.
The results were published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
October 8th, 2010
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