Magic Mushrooms for Cancer Patients?

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In a recent trial, researchers at Langone Medical Center at Johns Hopkins University have found that psilocybin helped cancer patients relieve their anxiety and fear. Most people associate psilocybin with hippies and recreational “trips,” but the chemical – the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms,” may have great therapeutic potential.

About 80 percent of the cancer patients in the trial reported feeling less anxiety and stress after a single dose, and the results lasted up to six months. “I felt that I was bathed in love,” says patient Dinah. Patient Eddie adds,“I also felt a tremendous connection to everyone I've ever met and known in my life.”

Could this change the way we view psilocybin? Psychotherapist Dr. Mike Dow joins The Doctors. He suggests that the benefits of long-term relief of patients' stress and depression are impressive. It might be worth rethinking about our concerns about hallucinogenic drugs.

Watch: LSD to Treat Anxiety

Octavian, who took part in the clinical trial, explains that he came to terms with what happened to him. He visualized the anxiety leaving his body like black smoke. Dr. Dow says that just one or two treatments can actually help the brain rewire itself in a long-lasting way.

Most anxiety treatments, Benzodiazepines like Xanax or Klonopin, wear off and the patient needs higher and higher doses to get the same effect. There is less potential for addiction with psilocybin because the patients don't use it habitually, Dr. Nita Landry observes.

Watch: Tackle Stress

Dr. Dow notes that this isn't a medication that patients should be allowed to take home and do by themselves – the treatments needs to be given in controlled conditions at the hospital under observation.

ER physician Dr. Travis Stork thinks there is a new open-mindedness about alternatives to conventional medications. “The truth is, if we can find alternatives, why wouldn't we study them?” he asks. Dr. Dow adds that prayer, hypnosis, and meditation can also have similar effects, rewiring the way the brain works. Plastic surgeon Dr. Andrew Ordon points out that helping others can also improve mental health.

Watch: Detecting Invisible Cancers

Psilocybin is illegal in the United States, and The Doctors urge viewers not to experiment at home. It's not safe to take drugs without expert help and supervision – and you might find yourself in jail to boot!