Mushroom magic in medicine for dying
THE dying will be treated with psychedelic synthetic magic mushrooms under a Melbourne medical trial aiming to ease paralysing anxiety felt by many palliative care patients.
The mind-bending drugs are hoped to give terminally ill patients a new perspective on their lives, guided by psychiatrists to remove the fear and depression which takes over many people’s final months.
The controversial St Vincent’s Hospital trial has taken more than a year to gain approval by ethics committees and Federal and State authorities. St Vincent’s clinical psychologist Dr Margaret Ross said patients would be given a single dose of psilocybin, which can unlock a section of patient’s brains to give them an altered outlook approaching death, lasting for six months or more.
“It is a little bit controversial because obviously we are using a psychedelic compound and it is a compound which is a synthetic version of what is colloquially known as magic mushrooms,” Dr Ross said.
“For many people ...living with a terminal illness it is absolutely devastating.
“People can live for months and years in palliative care and it is a long time to live with that hanging over your head. People can be quite paralysed by anxiety and despair and feel demoralised and withdraw.”
Up to three in 10 palliative care patients can experience extreme distress in their final months and medications or psychotherapy do not help all patients, Dr Ross said.
But US studies using psilocybin – the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms – were able to overcome severe depression in about 70 per cent of cases.