Taking the Magic Out of Magic Mushrooms

Dana Smith in The New York Times:

Nick Fernandez was in hell — one filled with fire and skulls and the long-legged elephants from a Salvador Dalí painting. A spirit had guided him there after his funeral; other stops on their journey included Grand Central Terminal, the top of the Empire State Building and the sewers flowing beneath New York City. Their final destination was a cave where Mr. Fernandez encountered his own body, hung up on a clothes hanger. By examining his body in this way, he was able to come to peace with all that it had been through and accept it as his own.

Mr. Fernandez was tripping on a very large dose of psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms. He took the drug as part of a clinical trial at New York University for people dealing with anxiety and depression following a cancer diagnosis. That study and several others have found that psychedelic drugs like psilocybin are remarkably good at alleviating symptoms of depression and anxiety — even in many people who do not respond to currently prescribed medications. They need to be taken only a few times (most clinical trials consist of two or three psychedelic sessions) instead of daily for months or years. Some experts say the therapy could be thought of as a surgery that solves a problem with a single procedure instead of a continuing treatment to manage a chronic condition.

More here.