Monday, December 1, 2014

Could magic mushrooms be medicine?

Seth Auberon, Amber Larson, Pat Macpherson (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly; Writer Adam Wernick, Producer Charles Monroe-Kane (The World,, Nov. 27, 2014)
Psilocybin mushrooms can be magical medicine from nature? (
Near death experience while alive and well (Soul Levitation/Louish Pixel/flickr/CC 2.0)
Popping hallucinogenic 'shrooms while facing death from a terminal illness sounds like a recipe for a really bad trip. But it turns out the experience it's quite the opposite for many people and can be a step toward fully living again.

Fly agaric, Amanita muscaria (
“All of our subjects expressed a lot of gratitude that this opportunity was open to them,” says Dr. Charles Grob of the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. The psychiatrist has been studying how psilocybin, the psychoactive component of "magic mushrooms," can reduce anxiety about death for cancer patients in the last months of their lives.
Many of the psychiatrist's patients "had lost their sense of meaning and purpose," Grob says. "We [thought] that not only might the experience help them to be less anxious and less depressed, it might also reconnect them with their core identity, which the illness often takes them away from.”
He says it was moving to sit with his patients for many hours "while they went deep into the experience -- for the most part just lying quietly in bed, eyes closed, eyeshades on, headphones on, listening to music."

I was out of my body and finally free, full of consciousness (claudiascuro/
Lore has said it for ages, but who believes?
For most of the patients, it was their first time using hallucinogens. Grob checked in with each patient once an hour to measure blood pressure and make sure everything was going okay -- while trying not to interrupt the effects. “I would encourage them to just go deep and [that] we would have lots of time later on to talk about what they were experiencing," he says.

Grob is hardly the first or only doctor working in this area. New York University’s Medical School and Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center have both run studies that administered psilocybin to cancer patients. “This research is in its very early stages,” Grob told the New York Times, “but we’re getting consistently good results.”

Patients who had been suffering severe anxiety or depression before taking psilocybin reported having a more positive view of their circumstances, and even a renewed sense of peace and gratitude. More

Buddha statues on rock cliff
Buddha statues cut directly into rock cliffs in Japan (Kazu Saito/

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