When 65-year-old Estalyn Walcoff took psilocybin, the active ingredient in psychedelic “magic” mushrooms, her worst fears and pains came up to the surface. Then, they transformed into a profound “feeling of connectedness that runs through all of us,” she said in a video. Walcoff called the experience, “the most precious thing I’ve ever known.”
Five years prior to her mushroom experience, when she was 60, Walcoff was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and experienced severe, unending anxiety. As Business Insider put it in a recent article, “even on good days, her constant feelings of worry and fear hung in the back of her mind like a dark curtain.”
Walcoff took mushrooms in a living room-like setting under the surveillance of trained psychologist, Jeffrey Guss and psychotherapist, Seema Desai, as part of a New York University clinical trial assessing the impact of psilocybin on cancer patients with anxiety and depression.
Walcoff described the experience in a video clip, available below. She said at first she felt anxious, then she experienced more physical pain, then she realized that the pain was “actually a level of [her] mind. And underneath that I began to feel great emotional pain.” She worked through the underlying emotions, sobbing for hours. After her psilocybin experience, the anxiety was almost entirely gone, and she said she has since felt at peace.
Walcoff’s experience is not isolated. Several studies assessing psilocybin’s impact on the brain have come up with similar results across research subjects. Many report significant and lasting improvements to anxiety and depression symptoms following psilocybin-assisted therapy. A recent study concluded that psilocybin alters the brain’s organizational framework, creating links between parts of the brain that don’t typically communicate. These shifts, scientists theorize, are behind the drug’s apparent ability to reverse anxiety and depression.
Watch Walcoff describe her experience with psilocybin below:
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