How Psychedelic Drugs Can Help Patients Face Death

Psychedelic dingbatsThe return of psychedelics to the medical arsenal seems to be well under way. Lauren Slater writes for the New York Times Magazine about Charles Grob, “a psychiatrist and researcher at Harbor-U.C.L.A. Medical Center who was administering psilocybin — an active component of magic mushrooms — to end-stage cancer patients to see if it could reduce their fear of death”:

…When the research was completed in 2008 — (and published in the Archives of General Psychiatry last year) — the results showed that administering psilocybin to terminally ill subjects could be done safely while reducing the subjects’ anxiety and depression about their impending deaths.

Grob’s interest in the power of psychedelics to mitigate mortality’s sting is not just the obsession of one lone researcher. Dr. John Halpern, head of the Laboratory for Integrative Psychiatry at McLean Hospital in Belmont Mass., a psychiatric training hospital for Harvard Medical School, used MDMA — also known as ecstasy — in an effort to ease end-of-life anxieties in two patients with Stage 4 cancer. And there are two ongoing studies using psilocybin with terminal patients, one at New York University’s medical school, led by Stephen Ross, and another at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, where Roland Griffiths has administered psilocybin to 22 cancer patients and is aiming for a sample size of 44. “This research is in its very early stages,” Grob told me earlier this month, “but we’re getting consistently good results.”

Grob and his colleagues are part of a resurgence of scientific interest in the healing power of psychedelics. Michael Mithoefer, for instance, has shown that MDMA is an effective treatment for severe P.T.S.D. Halpern has examined case studies of people with cluster headaches who took LSD and reported their symptoms greatly diminished. And psychedelics have been recently examined as treatment for alcoholism and other addictions…

[continues in the New York Times Magazine]


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7 Comments on "How Psychedelic Drugs Can Help Patients Face Death"

  1. Lol would be a little messed up if there’s an afterlife. “woah, I’m REALLY tripping now… no I don’t have any money for you! You look like a skeleton and that boat’s a piece of shit!”

  2. chinagreenelvis | Apr 24, 2012 at 11:31 pm |

    Albert Hoffman knew this when he started exploring his own creation back in the 40’s and 50’s. He writes about it pretty extensively in his 1980 book.

  3. i can see mdma helping with end of life depression and such, as it gives a wonderful feeling by releasing reward chemicals in the brain. But  psilocybin can give some horrible trips to people with anxiety and depression. Ive seen some chick cry all night because her boyfriend died a few years back, while me and others were trying to make cookies appear with our minds, and we did, or someone brought them while we were not looking, either way SCORE.  But i would not trip on shrooms if i were under any emotional distress. I have not tripped in years, because  events have made me hyper sensitive and without proper meditation they would wreak havoc with my emotions.  Maybe terminal patients have a slightly different bio chemical make up that makes them react in a positive way, even under emotional stress. 

    • JohnFrancisBittrich | Apr 25, 2012 at 12:13 pm |

      Set and setting are important as hell, but as someone who battled clinical depression my entire life and lived through numerous tragedies I can tell you with certainty that psychedelics have literally saved my life. Maybe your friend just needed one of you guys to talk her through the rough patch instead of ignoring her and just using the experience for frivolous giggles. There is no such thing as a “bad trip”, only being in a bad mood while tripping. Some people just aren’t ready to confront everything about themselves that they need to confront though. I suppose that’s why these studies are generally conducted under the watchful eye of professional psychiatrists.

      • bullshit. we talked to her she was not having it. and there are def bad trips, ive had some myself and people can over dose on mushrooms. and hey buddy we needed those giggles, why so fucking serious? the whole point of tripping is to liberate yourself and giggling and laughing is the definition  of freedom. I dont need to take drugs to have a mystical experience, psychedelics are too chaotic for that. maybe you should laugh a little more when tripping, because it sounds like you are the one having bad trips by your tone. spiritual arrogance is the worse. we were in a magickal state of mind and trying to make cookies appear was a thought experiment in making things materialize out of thin air, we picked something that our ego was not attached to, it makes things easier. And the girl crying was experiencing  a personal catharsis and you don’t mess with someone when they are purging themselves emotionally, you let it happen, she didnt die, her boyfriend did and she had a new boyfriend already, so she was doing alright and probably trying a little too hard to get attention. seem like you have a narrow idea of how humans behave at a party.  she would have probably broken up with him if he didnt happen to die before it happened, we were teens. i dont ignore anyone crying she just could not handle the guilt of probably being mean to him when his was alive and was acting neurotic because she was not able to control her imagination while on mushrooms. if you are tripping and not having fun you are doing it wrong. psychiatrists are a joke, there is no such thing as a safe experiment, you dont need a degree in mental charlatanism to see if someone is having a good time 0r bad on drugs, if anything i want a biochemist and a toxicologist checking me over so i don’t over dose. and mood and setting? i agree its important but the dying at a hospital is a pretty bad mood and setting for psychedelics, i would stick with mdma for those guys ready to break into the other side. 

      • you should try a better diet before taking psychedelics for depression. i get a little depressed too and its obviously my diet. cut down on the carbs and stimulants record the results. psychedelics for depression is a last ditch effort, they purge you emotionally, but do not address the physical cause of depression and so the depression come backs

  4. I want to hear the Glenn Miller Orchestra and see cops beating up hippies!

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