Taking psychedelic mushrooms is something usually associated with college kids tripping balls at a music festival. Less imagined, perhaps, is a terminally ill cancer patient tripping on shrooms in the middle of the ICU, but that's probably a visual we'd all better get more used to. On Tuesday, Canadian Health Minister Patty Hajdu granted the use of psilocybin for four patients with terminal cancer, and it seems there will be more to follow. That's in part because, according to a study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in January, psilocybin (the active ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms) helps reduce anxiety, depression, and hopelessness for proloned periods in cancer patients.
It's a big win for the patients who now have access to them, but it also got us thinking: Why not just open the floodgates? Why not just let dying people sign a waiver and do whatever the hell drug they want? If Grandma wants a few nips of heroin before she dies, then why not let her ride the white dragon on her way to heaven? If some guy with an incurable disease yearns for an out-of-body experience before he goes out-of-body forever, should we really be stopping him from taking a tab of LSD? What's the harm in letting a terminally ill teenager take a bump of coke to feel a little joy in her day?
Okay, that last one maybe not so much. Thinking things through, this idea might be imperfect. Yeah, we're not set up for a system where every person can have access to every drug at all times, and the definition of "terminally ill" isn't always so static. Also, the liability issues alone probably makes this a non-starter. Like, what would happen if a patient were misdiagnosed or had the potential for recovery, and then the drugs they took made them worse? I don't care what waivers are signed, not even the kid from Kramer vs. Kramer could dream up a worse legal nightmare,
Still, I think the legalization of drugs for dying people is a legitimate concept to place into the public conversation. We all know the history of medical marijuana restrictions within our culture (and if somehow you don't, just say Snoop Dogg's name three times into a mirror and he'll show up to tell you about it.) Politics kept people from having access to an effective medical treatment, and there's reason to believe the same could be true for other drugs.
Death is scary and awful. If people want to live out their final moments watching the walls melt rather than screaming in agony, then we should find safe, responsible, and perhaps even groovy ways to make that happen.
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