Psychedelic mushrooms are a banned substance, and are legally in the same category as some of the most dangerous drugs.
The ’60s counterculture decade was an era of rebellion and experimentation with drugs– including psychedelics. But now, doctors want to bring them back.
“I think that this is a unique kind of medicine,” Eddie Marritz said.
Marritz suffered from depression after he was diagnosed with a rare and deadly form of cancer.
“The bottom really dropped, for me, out of my life,” he said.
In a trial at New York University, doctors gave Marritz and 31 other cancer patients psilocybin, the active ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms, to see if it could ease their depression after one-time use.
“I thought, if this could help me come to terms with what my life is now, then I want to try it,” Marritz said.
Marritz spent six hours under its influence in a special treatment room.
“It took a while for it to begin, and then it was like… I don’t know how to put it… you go beyond time, you go beyond space and time,” he said.
Marritz said afterward, his depression lifted.
“I believe that this is a breakthrough study,” Dr. Jeffrey Guss said.
Guss, one of the study’s directors, said the outcomes were stunning; like Marritz, two thirds of patients had positive and long-lasting results.
“There’s a reduction in anxiety and depression and an improvement in quality of life and a reduction fear of death,” Guss said.
In the 1960s, researchers experimented with psychedelics to treat some psychological conditions, but problems led to the drug being banned. Guss said things are different now.
“There were a lot of mistakes made by leaders and users in the ’60s and we’ve learned from those mistakes,” he said.
Still, Dr. Herbert Kleber, an expert on drug policy, warns that there are concerns.
“It’s a drug, and it needs to be given under appropriate circumstances. Otherwise, it can be a dangerous element,” he said.
More than year after the study, Marritz said his cancer is in remission and he still feels the drug’s positive effects.
“I can only describe it to you as elevating, that’s how I’m going to put it,” he said. “It’s gratitude for being alive, that’s what it is.”
Researchers are now collecting data on the study that they hope to publish in about six months. Next, they will look at whether psychedelics can treat alcohol addiction.