Psychedelic Drugs Help Daughter In Dying Days

Originally appearing at The death of a child is every parent’s nightmare. Marilyn Howell spent the last three months of her adult daughter’s life trying to keep her from suffering in the end stages of cancer. The unconventional way she went about it is the subject of her self-penned book. “She was just an incredibly bright light. And boy, did she not want to go,” said Marilyn Howell about her daughter, Mara, who died five years ago from colon cancer. She was 32. “Her pain was not manageable and everything in mainstream medicine had been tried,” said Howell, who took care of Mara in hospice at her childhood Brookline home. Mara and her mother chose an unconventional course: the drug MDMA, better known as Ecstasy. “It was the best thing that happened at the end of her life. It took away her pain,” said Howell. The experience inspired Howell to write “Honor Thy Daughter” about Mara’s journey, which included psychotherapy when using the mind-expanding illegal drug. Howell said further research will prove its benefits. “I hope that other people like my daughter won’t have to go underground or go without,” she said. In the ’50s and ’60s there were hundreds of medical studies exploring the benefits of hallucinogenic drugs like LSD and “magic mushrooms” for anxiety and depression. Then came the war on drug abuse. But in recent years, research has resumed. Dr. James Rathmell, chief of pain medicine at Mass General Hospital, says the non traditional drugs can be emotionally healing for some patients. “They can produce this experience in the mind that can be extraordinarily life-changing for some people. Do they treat pain? Perhaps in the existential sense,” said Rathmell. But he errs on the side of caution. “This group of drugs is so unpredictable. The experience can be extraordinarily different for different patients, and catastrophic in some cases. Patients could become suicidal or psychotic,” said Rathmell. But Howell believes MDMA gave her daughter the gift of being present for her death, without suffering. She believes it was a good death. “All of the ticking and spasms and convulsions and labored breathing ceased,” said Howell. “My daughter could be alert, out of pain and awake during episodes at the end of her life. It was loving life again and it was a beautiful passing.” “Honor Thy Daughter” is published by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. The following article is a transcript of a stirring 3-minute segment on WCBV’s Health News about why Honor Thy Daughter author Marilyn Howell, Ed.D., chose to seek out psychedelic therapy for her daughter with terminal cancer. It also shows how mainstream medical practitioners are beginning to recognize the potential value of such treatments for patients at the end of their life, emphasizing the need for more research into the safety and effectiveness of MDMA and other psychedelics.