Doctors at prestigious medical institutions such as Harvard, John Hopkins and UCLA are looking at the use of street drugs for their terminally ill patients – drugs that have always been considered dangerous and of no medical value. All the research on this topic coming out of these medical schools seems to support the use of these narcotics as a way to calm patients’ fears and even offer them comforting new understandings during their final days.
The researchers obviously advocate precautions with this approach, but some believe this method could perhaps settle the issue of physician-assisted suicide. If someone’s last days could be made free of pain, insightful and peaceful, there would no longer be a need for the debate. However, much more research needs to be completed before this would become a viable option.
The fear of life-damaging consequences – including death caused by prolonged addiction –become null and void when dealing with patients at the very end stages of their life. The mass of research on the negative effects of alcohol and drugs in healthy individuals shows that the risk of addiction far outweighs any possible insight someone might glean from the use of certain drugs. However, for individuals about to pass away, the negative effects are far less substantive and the beneficial effects may be, for some, the best and only medicine necessary.
Drs. Roland Griffiths and Charles Grob from John Hopkins and UCLA studied the effects of psilocybin (the hallucinogenic chemical in “magic mushrooms”) on end stage cancer patients who were experiencing incapacitating fears. While at Harvard, MDMA, better known as Ecstasy, was studied on terminal cancer patients experiencing anxiety. All in all, the findings from the research reported reliably positive results in this patient population.
Most of the subjects reported being able to control both physical and emotional pain more easily after taking the narcotics. Many also gave accounts of experiencing altered perceptions that gave them a better understanding of their life and helped them come to terms with their own mortality.
It’s important to note that these were both small studies and that this type of research has far to go. Nevertheless, just like strong prescription opiates have their place in the arena of pain control but have devastating consequences when abused, perhaps when used in a targeted manner, these narcotics may also have a place in a healthcare setting.
What are your thoughts on drugs like “shrooms” and Ecstasy being used as medicine during end-of-life care for terminal patients? Leave us a comment and let us know your thoughts below.