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Psilocybin study: a patient's experience

Posted by Hugh on May 19, 2022, at 11:15:51

A Rockville cancer center led an FDA-approved study to treat patients with psychedelic mushrooms. Here's what happened.

By Julie Rasicot | May 15, 2022

Though the study data hasn't been published, Manish Agrawal says results have been "profound," with 82% of participants registering a more than 50% reduction in their depression scores. Half of all participants no longer suffered from clinical depression eight weeks after taking psilocybin and participating in group therapy. Some participants continue to see changes more than a year after taking psilocybin. "This really does impact the patient's psychological health in a way that I don't have tools for," Agrawal says.

That was the case for "Sally," another study participant and a Montgomery County resident in her mid-60s who didn't want to be identified because her family doesn't know she underwent psilocybin treatment. A survivor of child abuse, she later experienced the death of her husband and then was successfully treated for breast cancer while raising their two children. After a bout of colon cancer, she's been in remission since 2017. She says she took antidepressants before participating in the study but still felt "very anxious and depressed" much of the time.

Taking psilocybin helped her to "get beyond" her experiences, she says. "Psilocybin felt like it opened my brain and my mind up to fully living and being open to all of the possibilities that are out there instead of being so guarded," she says.

Sally's journey started pleasantly with visions of swirling, brightly colored gems, she says. Soon she found herself in a tunnel with an archway full of mouths with "sharp, sharp teeth" and she started seeing visions of traumatic experiences from her childhood. Though she'd spent years in intensive therapy, she says it didn't affect her the way her experience with psilocybin did. "I was a viewer watching the abuse happen and understanding that [it] was no longer part of me," she says. "I feel like at that moment I was healed, that I didn't really need to continue to relive it and have it affect my life, so I felt comforted."

Sally says she feels like "something had physically changed" in her brain after she took the psilocybin. She also has stayed off medication and says her anxiety is "completely gone." She's more focused on taking care of herself and eating better. The emotional journey she took that June day helped her understand that she needed to establish boundaries with others so she doesn't take on their problems like she used to, she says.

"I was hoping and expecting to feel calmer, but I never expected to happy as I've been," she says. "I feel so much richer, my life has been enriched by this. I'm better able to enjoy the things I really, really love, like my family."

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