Magic Mushrooms Are Helping Terminal Cancer Patients Find Peace With Death

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Dr. Charles Grob, a psychiatrist and researcher at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center saw not just the physical suffering of people with terminal cancer, but the anxiety they felt as they faced the final days of their lives. Dr. Grob decided to do something that not many had done before him: study the impact psilocybin had on their mental well being.

Psilocybin mushrooms have received a bad rap for decades due to their recreational use, but Dr. Grob’s pilot study, which focused on a dozen patients, found that even very small doses of psilocybin had a profound impact on his patients.

The 12 patients, ranging from age 36 to 58, all suffered advanced stage cancer and suffered anxiety due to the diagnosis. The patients each had two sessions in which they received a placebo and the psilocybin. Patients and doctors were able to tell which was the placebo and which was the psilocybin about 80% of the time. Not only did the patients experience greater calm and peace, but they relied less on narcotic pain relievers as well.

“This is a landmark study in many ways,” says Dr. Stephen Ross, the clinical director of the New York University Langone Medical Center’s Center of Excellence on Addiction. “This is the first time a paper like this has come out in a prestigious psychiatric journal in 40 years.”

Now, a brand new documentary follows the lives of terminally ill cancer patients through their clinical trial with psilocybin. A New Understanding explores the therapeutic potential that chemically-induced near-death experiences can provide for people faced with the prospect of dying.