For the Dying, Psychedelic Drugs Ease That Final Trip

Doctors exploring psychedelics for trauma, addiction, depression

By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 22, 2012 10:45 AM CDT

(Newser) – Psychedelic drugs, once the domain of the free-lovin' hippies of the '60s, are coming under the microscope of very serious scientists of the current decade. A number of studies show that psilocybin, MDMA, and other psychedelics can ease a range of traumas and afflictions including headaches, PTSD, addiction, and for the terminally ill, anxiety about dying, reports the New York Times. “This research is in its very early stages,” said a doctor who has given psilocybin (an active ingredient in magic mushrooms) to 22 cancer patients, “but we’re getting consistently good results.”

"We are sober scientists," said one researcher, wary of being associated with Timothy Leary types. “We are trying to stay under the radar. We want to be anti-Leary.” In one Johns Hopkins study of psilocybin, 94% of subjects called the study one of the five most meaningful experiences of their lives; 39% said it was the most meaningful. While researchers are not certain how these drugs work, they seem to deactivate regions of the brain that integrate the senses and the sense of self—areas that tend to be overactive in depressed people. It's "existential medicine," said one doctor, adding that, despite the growing research, how the drugs reduce anxiety "is a bit of a mystery." Read the entire feature here.

Researchers are taking a serious look at psychedelic drugs as a tool for helping people suffering from PTSD, depression, and other mental problems.
Researchers are taking a serious look at psychedelic drugs as a tool for helping people suffering from PTSD, depression, and other mental problems.   (Shutterstock)
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