Dr. Roland Griffiths is dying. He is the founding director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research and received a diagnosis of Stage 4 metastatic colon cancer. At 79 he felt 30 years younger than he really was and in the end the cancer was a surprise that he learned to deal with through meditation and psychedelics.
In this wide-ranging NY Times interview, Dr. Griffiths talked about how he was dealing with a certain fate. One interesting section talks about how he used psilocybin to reduce depression:
How else have psychedelics, both studying them and using them, helped prepare you for death? Our first study was in cancer patients. Ironically enough, these were cancer patients who were depressed and anxious because of a life-threatening diagnosis. The findings of that study were profound: A single treatment of psilocybin produced large and enduring decreases in depression and anxiety. I’ve had some limited experience with psychedelics since then. But what did that teach me about my diagnosis? We’ve now treated hundreds of participants with psychedelics and before sessions, one of the key things that we teach them is that upon taking a psychedelic, there’s going to be an explosion of interior experiences. What we ask them to do is be with those experiences — be interested and curious. You don’t have to figure anything out. You’re going to have guides, and we’re going to create this safety container around you. But here’s the trick: These are not necessarily feel-good experiences. People can have experiences in which they feel like they come to this beautiful understanding of who they are and what the world is, but people can also have frightening experiences. The preparation we give for these experiences is to stay with them, be curious and recognize the ephemeral nature of them. If you do that, you’re going to find that they change. The metaphor we use is, imagine that you’re confronted with the most frightening demon you can imagine. It’s made by you, for you, to scare you. I’ll say: “There’s nothing in consciousness that can hurt you. So what you want to do is be deeply curious and, if anything, approach it.” If your natural tendency is to run, it can chase you for the entire session. But if you can see it as an appearance of mind, then you go, “Oh, that’s scary, but yeah, I’m going to investigate that.”
It’s a lovely bit of writing about a unique individual. Check it out.