Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Part 1: Can Death-Related Anxiety and Depression Be Overcome?

I first heard about this study in 2018 and was immediately curious about it and my interest was renewed recently when I heard Terry Gross, the host of Fresh Air, interview Michael Pollan about his experiences of this in his new book. Today however, I am going to write about the original study and post the link to the article from NPR and in my  next post, I will refer to Terry's interview with Michael Pollan.

Headed by a group from NYU and Johns Hopkins, researchers wanted to study the effects of synthetic psilocybin, the hallucinogenic compound found in "magic mushrooms" on patients with advanced cancer.

Specifically, they wanted to see what if any effect, taking the drug would have on their feelings of anxiety, depression and "existential angst".

The results were published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in May, 2018. Of the 80 participants who were followed up six months afterwards, two-thirds reported that their anxiety and depression pretty much disappeared after one dose of psilocybin.

The subjects were given the drug under supervision of two Johns Hopkins staffers or "guides" as they were referred to. The subjects were briefed the day before on what to do if they encountered anything scary ("Just open up and walk right in"). The experience lasted approximately six hours and during the entire time, guides were present.

Many of the subjects talked about feeling "interconnected", "whole", and felt the experience was "sacred".

To read more about the study, follow this link.

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