(CBS) UCLA researchers may be tripping, but they say a new study shows that magic mushrooms can help ease anxiety for patients with advanced-stage cancer.
Twelve volunteers were given psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, or a placebo. Then they were asked to lie down, wear dark eye shades and listen to music - in essence space out.
The results? Those who had been dosed with psilocybin had improved mood up to six months after their trip. That's substantial, considering that the patients are facing death. They also required less pain medication.
"We are working with a patient population that often does not respond well to conventional treatments," lead researcher Dr. Charles S. Grob said in a written statement. "Following their treatments with psilocybin, the patients and their families reported benefit from the use of this hallucinogen in reducing their anxiety. This study shows psilocybin can be administered safely, and that further investigation of hallucinogens should be pursued to determine their potential benefits."
Psychedelic drugs were studied as medicine in the 1960s, but widespread recreational use of LSD, magic mushrooms and marijuana stirred a federal crackdown and made the research culturally off limits.
The research team at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (LA BioMed) says this is the first time 37 years that an American group has studied psilocybin in this way. The study was published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
Listen to what Pam Sakuda, one of the volunteers, had to say about her experience.