Psilocybin Trial Patients Describe Their "Trips" To Anderson Cooper

By Lindsey Weedston 10/29/19

One of the trial's participants quit smoking after 46 years. 

Anderson Cooper
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In a recent 60 Minutes segment, Anderson Cooper interviewed multiple subjects of research trials exploring the effects of psilocybin on people living with depression, anxiety or addiction.

Trials are ramping up after decades of total bans on any scientific research into psychedelic drugs such as psilocybin (“magic mushrooms") and LSD. Many participants who have been put through six-hour experiences with psilocybin found them to be life-changing.

“They come to a profound shift of world view,” says researcher Roland Griffiths, “and essentially, a shift in sense of self.”

Cooper interviewed two trial participants who had been struggling with addiction for many years, having had no success with other quitting techniques and products. After one intense session with the psychedelic drug, they haven’t touched the substances that were troubling them since.

46-Year Smoker Quits After "Bad Trip"

Carine McLaughlin, a smoker for 46 years, was able to quit after having a “bad trip,” an experience that produced primarily negative or distressing emotions.

“The ceiling of this room were clouds, like, heavy rain clouds,” McLaughlin recalled of her session. “And gradually they were lowering. And I thought I was gonna suffocate from the clouds.”

Jon Kostakopoulos, meanwhile, was up to 20 drinks a night before his session, which brought up old memories and deep feelings.

“I felt, you know, a lot of shame and embarrassment throughout one of the sessions about my drinking and how bad I felt for my parents to put up with all this,” he said. He hasn’t had a drink since that day in 2016. He hasn’t even been tempted, he said.

“Not at all, which is the craziest thing because that was my favorite thing to do,” he told Cooper.

Researcher Griffiths and his colleague Matthew Johnson have been working on their research since 2000, when the Nixon-era ban on psychedelics in scientific trials was lifted. Before the ban, similar trials were conducted with LSD in the 1950s and '60s. 

How It Works

Today, Griffiths and Johnson are careful to weed out patients with psychotic disorders and family histories of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder and all trial participants are put through “weeks of intensive counseling before and after” the experience. After finally being given the dose of psilocybin, they lie on a couch with a blindfold and headphones playing “a mix of choral and classical music” while a guide watches over them.

Results have been very promising, with the majority of the 51 terminal cancer patients who have been through the trial enjoying "significant decreases in depressed mood and anxiety" from the treatment.

“It seemed so implausible to me that a single experience caused by a molecule, right, ingested in your body could transform your outlook on something as profound as death,” said How To Change Your Mind author Michael Pollan. “That's kind of amazing.”

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Lindsey Weedston is a Seattle area writer focused on mental health and addiction, politics, human rights, and various social issues. Her work has appeared in The Establishment, Ravishly, ThinkProgress, Little Things, Yes! Magazine, and others. You can find her daily writings at Twitter: