Article: WJZ: Could Tripping On Acid Help Those With Cancer (TV transcript)

Originally appearing here.

Nov 12, 2008 11:28 pm US/Eastern

Reporting Derek Valcourt

More Information About Study: PDF

Study Findings: PDF

BALTIMORE (WJZ) • A cancer diagnosis is news no one wants. It can be
devastating and depressing. But could tripping on acid help cancer
patients cope with their illness? A local doctor thinks so and he’s
testing his theories on real cancer patients right here in Maryland.

Derek Valcourt looks at how drugs long considered illegal could be the key
to spiritual enlightenment.

You’ve heard about medicinal marijuana, but what about medical magic
mushrooms and even medical LSD?

“And I felt like I was being taken now onto a journey,” said Sandy Lundahl.

Where Lundahl went was the result of a hallucination and part of medical
research done by Dr. Roland Griffiths from Johns Hopkins School of
Medicine. The research examines whether drugs that cause hallucinations
could actually help cancer patients.

“This is not a cure for cancer, but it is an intervention that back in the
’60s people found very helpful for terminal cancer patients,” Griffiths

Rampant use and abuse of drugs like mushrooms and LSD in the ’60s led to a
government crackdown because, if unsupervised, hallucinations can be
dangerous. In some people, they can cause flashbacks, intense fear and
panic that could even lead to suicide.

“These are not drugs that can be used lightly,” Griffiths said.

Griffiths got rare government permission to conduct tests right here in
Maryland using psilocybin, the active ingredient in so-called magic

Before testing cancer patients, tests had to be done on healthy volunteers
like Sandy, who signed up and swallowed two pills.

“It wasn’t one piece of it but the whole of that experience…there’s no
other word to call it but spiritual,” she said.

Like many others who try hallucinogens, at first Sandy described what she
called a kaleidoscope of colors. But then she says she saw the planet,
space, rivers and mountains, then a journey into the past.

“I could see ancient people,” she said. “I saw a temple…I saw the
processional of Jesus Christ coming down the road and I felt like I was in
the crowd.”

Then the hallucinations took her into her own past. She began crying when
she revisited her father’s death.

“In the session, I actually could feel the full impact of his death and
how I just really missed him,” she said.

So how can an experience like Sandy’s help someone with cancer? Dr.
Griffiths says about 60% of the volunteers said their hallucinations were
spiritual and brought long-lasting positive changes in mood and attitude.

“An effect of this sort would be very, very useful to someone who is in
distress because of a cancer diagnosis,” he said, “and get people to live
more fully in the time they have available.”

With the success of the first phase, Dr. Griffiths is now looking for
cancer patients to continue his hallucinogenic study.

Nothing is out of reach….Life is a miracle unfolding. Unknown