Palliative care is a newer field of medicine in which specialists aim to provide comfort, improved quality of life, and general support for persons with serious illnesses. While palliative care is frequently applied to patients with good life expectancy, practitioners in the field often work with patients suffering from terminal illnesses, often nearing the end of their lives.

Late last year, we published the post regarding psilocybin mushrooms and palliative care which tells the story of a brave oncologist and palliative care physician who, after reviewing the seemingly always-increasing preponderance of evidence indicating that psilocybin can reduce depression and anxiety in end-of-life patients, decided to find out for himself what the experience would be like.

psilocybin in palliative caree

In a controlled environment, Dr. Anthony Back tried psilocybin and experienced “an ineffable sense of the beyond”, which he reported to deeply impact how he relates to his patients and to himself regarding the experience and his subsequent opinion of psilocybin mushrooms and psilocybe cubensis mushrooms for therapy and palliative care.

Evidence for the effectiveness of psilocybin in treating mental distress in dying patients is plentiful. There is an article in the Journal of Psychopharmacology regarding psilocybin and end of life care which is a good place to start for anyone interested in the topic.

We mention these reports because they resonate so strongly with the ongoing case against the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) which seeks to allow terminal cancer patients access to psilocybin. Let’s take a closer look into this story:

Quick Run-down: Here’s What’s Happening

Earlier this year in January, a palliative care physician named Dr. Sunil Aggarwal, with the aid of attorney Kathryn Tucker, requested access to psilocybin from the DEA for one of his terminally ill patients.

In addition to the evidence discussed in the previous section regarding the efficacy of psilocybin in alleviating the mental anguish of end-of-life patients, Aggarwal’s reasoning included the Right to Try act (often simply abbreviated RTT—more on this in the following section). It was assumed that the DEA would give Aggarwal and his patients clearance to utilize the compound.

Unfortunately, the DEA declined Aggarwal’s request. It was at that time that the doctor, his patients, and a growing number of state attorneys decided to sue the DEA, seeking a reversal of their decision. At this time the case for psilocybin for the terminally ill case is ongoing.

One of the attorneys involved with the case had this to say:

“The case is about seeking to ensure that patients with serious, life-threatening illness are able to realize the promise of state and federal Right to Try laws and access psilocybin for therapeutic purposes.”

Attorney Kathryn Tucker

What Are Right to Try Laws?

court case psilocybin for terminally ill

The federal Right To Try Law published on FDA.gov was approved in May of 2018. On a state level, nearly the entire country has RTT laws: 41 states to be precise, one of which being Washington state where Dr. Aggarwal and his patients are located. RTT laws are designed to give patients with terminal diagnoses the legal right to try “investigational medications” that haven’t been approved for use by the general public.

In other words, if a patient is dying, RTT laws give them the right to try experimental, unproven, or even possibly ineffective treatments. In effect, it gives a dying patient the autonomy to try whatever they can to increase their quality of life or indeed chances of living. In this author’s opinion, it seems a perfectly logical thing to do—why not try?

An unnamed patient who participated in a study conducted by the Imperial College London on psychedelics and the end of life care summed up the motivation behind this line of thinking—perhaps perfectly:

I’m not a religious person and I’d be hard pushed to say I was anything near-spiritual either, but I felt like I’d experienced some of that, and experienced the feeling of an afterlife, like a preview almost, and I felt totally calm, totally relaxed, totally at peace. So that when that time comes for me, I will have no fear of it at all.

Unnamed patient, Imperial College London study

The good news is that Dr. Aggarwal seems to have quite a bit of support behind him. State attorneys from around the nation have rallied behind his cause (at the time of this writing, ten so far). If the lawsuit against the DEA yields positive results, it could set a precedent for future cases concerning Schedule I substances and their use by patients wishing to exercise their RTT law rights. A prime example aside from psilocybin is methylenedioxy-methylamphetamine (MDMA).

Amateur Microscopists, Here’s How to Study Psilocybin Mushroom Spores at Home

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As science moves forward and legislation concerning psilocybin mushroom strains and effects continues to become more permissive, it seems that it’s only inevitable that the public awareness of the benefits of psilocybin mushrooms would grow – and indeed it is, at an increasingly rapid rate. Cases like the one we discussed here today would have been nearly unheard of just a decade ago, perhaps not even five years ago.

For a closer look at the explosive growth of public awareness of psilocybin, you need not look further than the current shroom boom or psilocybin cubensis mushrooms boom. Thanks to the efforts of researchers, activists, and corporate interests, the future is likely to be bright for psilocybin advocates. However, there’s still a long way to go, with battles on multiple fronts.

Having said that, psilocybin mushroom spores are legal throughout most of the United States for microscopy and research purposes. Here’s some psilocybin fast facts from the US Department of Justice to review.