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Using hallucinogens to treat anxiety from a serious illness diagnosis




In this April 13, 2010 photo, Dr. Stephen Ross shows an example of the pill a patient would take in a study on the effects of hallucinogenic drugs on the emotional and psychological state of cancer patients in New York. The pill could could either contain a placebo or psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
In this April 13, 2010 photo, Dr. Stephen Ross shows an example of the pill a patient would take in a study on the effects of hallucinogenic drugs on the emotional and psychological state of cancer patients in New York. The pill could could either contain a placebo or psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Seth Wenig/AP

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This is Part Four of our Psychedelic Science series. Click here for Part One, here for Part Two, and here for Part Three.

Psilocybin is the active ingredient that puts the magic in "magic mushrooms." And new research suggests it has tremendous potential as a treatment for severe anxiety caused by a serious illness or terminal diagnosis, according to researchers in the field. 

But look up psilocybin on the Drug Enforcement Agency's (DEA) website, and you’ll find this natural hallucinogen classified as a "Schedule One" drug. In government speak that means one that's dangerous and "without any accepted medical value."

But patients who have taken psilocybin as part of anxiety studies tell a different story. 

KPCC's Stephanie O'Neill reports.