Can Psychedelic Therapy Ease the Suffering of Cancer Patients?

Originally appearing at Honor Thy Daughter is an intimate true story by Marilyn Howell about her family’s search for physical, emotional, and spiritual healing as her daughter struggles with terminal cancer. It is the compelling story of how a spirited young woman and her heartbroken mother come face-to-face with mortality and loss. “Sanity is a mixed blessing when it means knowing that life will end soon,” says Marilyn Howell in her new book, Honor Thy Daughter, a riveting, spare-no-punches account of losing her 32-year-old daughter Mara to colon cancer. A Harvard-educated teacher, Howell lucidly depicts her and her family’s struggles to walk the lines between hope and despair, acceptance and denial, and science and magic in the face of mortality. For anyone who has had cancer or loved someone who suffered through it, this story will resonate deeply. There is one thing, however, that sets Honor Thy Daughter apart from other medical dramas. Howell turns to psychedelic therapy to ease her daughter’s final days, making the story as politically provocative as it is emotionally stunning. Published by the nonprofit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), Honor Thy Daughter makes a compelling case against the 40-year ban on research into psychedelic psychotherapy, especially as it relates to end-of-life issues. “It’s counterproductive to ban responsible, controlled scientific research into treatments for conditions where conventional medicines simply don’t work,” explains Howell, pointing to the limited relief available for sufferers of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic pain, and, most important for her, the anxiety and depression associated with a terminal diagnosis. Howell convincingly argues that chemotherapy drugs are far more toxic than MDMA, LSD, or psilocybin, the unconventional treatments her daughter turned to when there was nowhere else she could turn. “There’s no question that her psychedelic sessions helped her achieve a more pain-free and more peaceful death,” writes Howell. Yet, however compelling a case Howell makes for encouraging psychedelic research, this is not a book about politics. Rather, it is first and foremost a harrowing story of how a spirited young woman and her heartbroken mother come face-to-face with mortality and loss. Honor Thy Daughter raises interesting questions about the long, hard journey from denial to acceptance. Howell’s daughter Mara is a wilderness expert—fiercely independent and brimming with energy—but cancer is one adventure for which it is difficult to prepare. The year between her diagnosis and her final pain-ridden days is one in which everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. This is a story that asks questions many of us hope we never have to answer. Is the failure of experimental chemotherapy treatment good news since it means not having to experience its horrible side effects? Is it better to lie to ourselves so we can continue to fight? Is facing the facts a rational strategy or a capitulation? For those of us whose death does not come suddenly, these are the toughest questions we’ll ever face. Howell confronts them with profound intelligence, boundless compassion, and even humor. True to its title, Honor Thy Daughter is a testament to a mother’s endless love, to one young woman’s tenacious will to hold on, and to the healing that can happen when we’re willing to let go. Advance praise for Honor Thy Daughter “A beautifully written and moving account of the medical odyssey of a courageous young woman with terminal cancer accompanied and supported by her loving mother. This book shows the value of psychedelic therapy as a tool for alleviating the suffering of cancer patients, and it comes at a time when the medical profession is resuming research on psychedelic substances for the first time in forty years.” —Stanislav Grof, MD, author of LSD Psychotherapy and The Ultimate Journey: Consciousness and the Mystery of Death. “A harrowing, compelling inside view of the U.S. cancer treatment system. Most memorable is how MDMA, used skillfully, can restore a person’s humanity even when submerged in debilitating treatments. This book will hasten the end of an ill-conceived prohibition.” —James Fadiman, PhD, researcher and author of The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide: Safe, Therapeutic and Sacred Journeys. “The compelling story of the inexorable death of a radiantly compassionate young woman, of the excruciating tension between a mother’s love and a scientist’s uncompromising commitment to the truth, and finally of their excursion together into the world of psychedelic drugs in search of a ‘good death.’” —Ross Gelbspan, editor of a Pulitzer Prize-winning series for the Boston Globe and author of The Heat Is On and Boiling Point. “Marilyn Howell has been to the dark side of the moon. She doesn’t flinch from describing the journey, but she transforms it from a story of unfathomable loss and grief to one of love and hope. A brave and beautiful book.” —Jean Kilbourne, senior scholar at the Wellesley Centers for Women and author of Can’t Buy My Love. For more information, please visit Media contact: Victor Gulotta, Gulotta Communications, Inc. 617-630-9286, victor(at)booktours(dot)com About the Author Marilyn Howell, EdD, was trained as a biologist and earned a doctorate in education from Harvard University. She taught at Brookline High School for three decades, during which time she created and developed the first Mind/Body course in public education. shares this press release announcing the publication of Honor Thy Daughter by Marilyn Howell, Ed.D. In the newest book from the MAPS Press, Howell tells the story of her family’s search for physical, emotional, and spiritual healing as her daughter struggles with terminal cancer. Their journey ultimately takes them into the hands of an anonymous therapist who offers the family hope and healing through psychedelic psychotherapy.

The original press release is also available.