The potential for psychedelics as part of palliative care: Louis Schwartzberg talks to Dr. Dingle Spence

The Fantastic Fungi Summit, which brought together over forty leading experts to discuss the healing power of mushrooms, was held virtually from 15-17 October 2021.

Fantastic Fungi director, Louis Schwartzberg, spoke with Dr. Dingle Spence about the potential of psychedelic medicines as part of palliative care treatment, a major focus area for Psyence.

Dr. Dingle Spence is a Jamaican physician with training in both clinical oncology and palliative medicine; she is also a Medical Advisor to Psyence. Dr. Spence joined Jack Kornfield, best-selling author and Buddhist practitioner and Wade Davis, ethnobotanist and cultural anthropologist on the fascinating panel discussion titled: Transformational power of mushrooms: from Mental Health to our Inner Awakening and Evolution.

Louis Schwartzberg asked Dr. Spence how magic mushrooms might help guide a patient going through the transitional death experience. He asked how mushrooms might help people face what for many is their greatest fear, the fear of dying. This was Dr. Spence’s response:

Our Western culture teaches us to push grief away, push death away and we do everything we can to distract ourselves from dealing with terrible pain, whether it is physical pain, grief pain or fear of death. I really see the future of psychedelics in helping us deal with existential distress.

I have already seen transformation working with bereaved parents, which is probably one of the worst types of grief people can face and have to live with. I have seen the transformative power of mushrooms in their journey. I am yet to offer “the Medicine”, which is what we call it, to people who are in transition, but for me there is already evidence that it is really helpful. We want to work with that.

Mushrooms are not part of our culture in Jamaica, using cannabis as medicine certainly is, but psychedelics are not. We have a way to go to start to introduce it, but I am very keen to start working with my palliative care patients and, certainly all I have read, and my own personal journey experience, supports this.

Mushroom medicine helps us reconnect with who we are and with nature. Disconnection from nature is one of the most traumatic things that has happened to us in the West. Mushroom medicine, I hope, will bring us back and give us access to our original connection with nature, which I believe is so important.