Mush­room magic in medicine for dy­ing

The Advertiser - - NEWS - GRANT MCARTHUR

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.

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