It’s been 47 years since the Beatles released “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” over 50 since Timothy Leary conducted experiments with LSD and psilocybin at Harvard University and 40 years since there was any study involving LSD that was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. Now, an approved new study is showing promising signs that psilocybin, the psychedelic ingredient in magic mushrooms, can help seriously ill patients overcome depression and anxiety.
The Psilocybin Cancer Project at New York University is looking for cancer patient volunteers to ingest psilocybin “magic” mushrooms and report on whether the drug helps them overcome their fears as well as the pain from the cancer and treatments. Clinical psychologist Anthony Boss leads the project and results with early participants have been promising so far. Estalyn Walcoff, a psychotherapist diagnosed with an untreatable form of lymphoma who took part in the study, was overwhelmed.
The worst pain and the worst fear and the worst anxiety turned into … the most precious thing I have ever known.
The U.S. study follows previous studies at Imperial College London which found that psilocybin helps people deal with depression. In addition to the NYU project, Harvard Medical School is planning a study of MDMA, better known as ecstasy or Molly, and its potential effect on end-of-life anxiety.
Richard Nixon once called Timothy Leary “The most dangerous man in America” and psilocybin is still a Schedule I drug, the same classification as heroin. Novelist Aldous Huxley, who participated in Leary's Harvard project, received two injections of LDS shortly before he died in 1963. The world of psychedelics and death anxiety is not new, but the volunteers and doctors are certainly brave.