Updated: Jan 3, 2022
As research into various uses of psychedelic medicines for mental health continues to grow, one area is garnering some of the strongest push by patients for decriminalization and expanded access: end of life support and palliative care.
A recent article by Rolling Stone magazine profiles the hopes and struggles of terminally ill patients as they sue the government to gain access to psychedelic therapies in the hopes of easing their pain and anxiety, and improve their quality of life.
The main plaintiff Erinn Baldeschwiler, a 49-year old mother of two teens who is diagnosed with terminal cancer says: "I don’t want my diagnosis to be upsetting and dark and hopeless for my kids,”, “So I need to be in a space where I am not hopeless and there is peace. I know for certain if I’m negative and ‘woe is me,’ and desperate and have feelings of like ‘I just want to check out,’ that’s going to make it a hundred times worse.”
Baldeschwiler's plea is rooted in the findings of various psychedelic research studies on this topic going back many decades.
"Researchers, going back to the late 1950s, found psychedelics such as psilocybin and LSD showed promise for end-of-life distress as well as a host of other mental health conditions, from alcoholism to trauma. Much of this research, however, is not considered valid by the Food and Drug Administration because it did not follow their current protocols.
After Richard Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act into law in 1970, there was essentially a decades-long ban on psychedelic research. It was a landmark study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, in 2006 — showing psilocybin holds promise for end-of-life distress in cancer patients — that largely jumpstarted what’s now known as the “Psychedelic Renaissance,” the second wave of psychedelic research in the U.S. since the 60s. The study found that after two or three psilocybin sessions, a majority of participants had significant and positive changes in their mood, while 33 percent rated the experience as the most spiritually significant experience of their life, comparable to the birth of a first child or the death of a parent. Since then, this research has continued with the same results in trials at Johns Hopkins and New York University."