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Las Vegas Man Overcomes Anxiety By Treatment With Hallucinogen

Andrew Ostrovsky/iStockphoto

After enduring months of grueling chemotherapy, Octavian Mihai was free of cancer but not of doubt.

He cut short a celebratory trip to Europe because he was certain his Hodgkin’s lymphoma had returned. His doctor found him physically fine, but anxiety over a potential recurrence was ruining his life.

The doctor encouraged Mihai to participate in a New York University medical research project that treated cancer patients’ anxiety with psilocybin, a hallucinogenic compound found in so-called magic mushrooms.

Today, following one treatment of psilocybin, Mihai works as a physician’s assistant in Las Vegas and is no longer haunted by the anxiety that followed his cancer treatment. He also remains free of lymphoma.

His experience became part of the study from NYU’s Langone Medical Center that showed the hallucinogen relieved anxiety and depression for nearly all of the cancer patients tested, and with few side effects.

Mihai said he didn't hallucinate, but instead took what he describes as "trips." He believes it was one particular 'trip' that helped him overcome the anxiety all together. 

He said he had vision of himself on a stretcher, and he knew he was cured. He could see that his lymph nodes were clear. It is then that he had an epiphany and came to realize that he was letting the anxiety terrorize him. 

“That was basically the trip where I came to terms with what had happened to me," he said, "I think in a way it symbolized my psychological cure from the disease.”

He said while taking a drug known for giving people wild hallucinations sounds fun it wasn't. Instead, Mihai said the therapy was a "hard, hard eight hours of work." 

Mihai believes other patients could benefit from the treatment as long as it is done in a controlled way.

The research was published in the Journal of Psychopharmacologyand featured on the front page of the New York Times.

(Editor's note: This interview originally aired December 2016)

Octavian Mihai

Octavian Mihai, suffered anxiety following cancer

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With deep experience in journalism, politics, and the nonprofit sector, news producer Doug Puppel has built strong connections statewide that benefit the Nevada Public Radio audience.