Researchers have found that cancer patients suffering anxiety or depression can receive lasting help from a chemical compound found in magic mushrooms.
Two simultaneous studies showed that the vast majority of patients who suffered cancer-related anxiety or depression and took a large dose of psilocybin felt a pronounced improvement in their mental state over at least six months.
Psilocybin is the active compound in the magic mushrooms, but researchers have warned people not to try the treatment unless they are in a research or patient care setting.
The studies - by Johns Hopkins Medicine and New York University Langone Medical Center - were based on responses from 51 and 29 cancer patients respectively. The findings were published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
Both studies found that 80% of respondents were still experiencing a marked reduction in anxiety and depression six months on from the treatment, and both reports cited pronounced increases in well-being or life satisfaction.
"Our results represent the strongest evidence to date of a clinical benefit from psilocybin therapy, with the potential to transform care for patients with cancer-related psychological distress," said study lead investigator Stephen Ross, MD, director of substance abuse services in the Department of Psychiatry at NYU Langone.
"If larger clinical trials prove successful, then we could ultimately have available a safe, effective, and inexpensive medication -- dispensed under strict control -- to alleviate the distress that increases suicide rates among cancer patients,"