To every college kid who ever took happy little trip into fantasyland on an idle weekend this may come as a welcome shock: psilocybin, the hallucinogen found in psychedelic 'shrooms, may present an effective treatment for anxiety and depression, especially in cancer patients. Even better, that effect may last a month or more.
That's right, the gross little fungi you choked down with your buddy in the dorm room so you could watch rainbow-haired leprechauns ooze out of the walls allegedly has real medical benefits, according to an Associated Press report:
It worked for Dinah Bazer, who endured a terrifying hallucination that rid her of the fear that her ovarian cancer would return. And for Estalyn Walcoff, who says the drug experience led her to begin a comforting spiritual journey.
The work released Thursday is preliminary and experts say more definitive research must be done on the effects of the substance, called psilocybin (sih-loh-SY'-bihn).
Physician Craig Blinderman is in charge of Columbia University Medical Center/New York-Presbyterian Hospital palliative care. He told the AP that psilocybin yielded "very impressive results" in a pair of studies that were released last week.
The AP reported that both studies indicated a guided psilocybin experience was more effective than a placebo for 80 percent of the patients who received such treatment.
The same study found no major side effects for those who took a medically-approved trip into inner space. A great part of the positive effect is the fact that 'shrooms induce a distinctly mystical, quasi-religious experience, which one test subject reported "felt like I was bathed in God's love," even though she was an atheist.
Researchers caution, however, that it's still a lousy idea to gut it out and eat some actual stems and caps. The experiments were all conducted in carefully-controlled circumstances, with trained trip guides on hand.
Additionally, the recent studies were small and confined to cancer patients. So keep your eyes peeled for the first trials involving healthy subjects and get in line if one shows up. Tripping balls in a pleasant exam room with low light and nice music sounds infinitely preferable to screaming at moving shadows in a trip buddy's badly-lit basement.