The compound, called psilocybin, can reduce the anxiety in patients up to five years after being taken, according to research from New York University‘s Grossman School of Medicine. The study found that when used alongside psychotherapy, there was an improvement in the “emotional and existential” distress experienced by patients.
“Participants overwhelmingly (71 to 100 per cent) attributed positive life changes to the psilocybin-assisted therapy experience and rated it among the most personally meaningful and spiritually significant experiences of their lives,” the researchers said.
The team were following up on a 2016 report into the effects of the substance on cancer patients, which found that it had “immediate, substantial, and sustained improvements in anxiety and depression”. Their new research concludes that nearly 5 years on, the positive effects have continued.
The lead investigator of the original 2016 study, Dr Stephen Ross, said of the results: “Adding to evidence dating back as early as the 1950s, our findings strongly suggest that psilocybin therapy is a promising means of improving the emotional, psychological, and spiritual wellbeing of patients with life-threatening cancer.”
Magic mushrooms have long been used recreationally but this research may prove the psychedelic substance has a genuine medical purpose. From tomorrow, an exhibition called Mushrooms: The Art, Design, and Future of Fungi opens at Somerset House in London dedicated to “celebrating the remarkable mushroom, and all the progressive, poetic and psychedelic wonder it evokes”.
The research is published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. Visit the Somerset House website for more info about their mushroom exhibition.