After starting with a short history of the topic, the documentary then profiles both a number of researchers working with the ‘magic mushroom’ psychedelic, and also those that have taken part in trials with the drug – including those who took part in a clinical trial devoted to its effect on people who are terminally ill.
It’s an enlightening, fascinating, and moving look at a still heretical area of new research that has its roots in ancient shamanism!
‘A New Understanding’ explores the treatment of end-of-life anxiety in terminally ill cancer patients using psilocybin, a psychoactive compound found in some mushrooms, to facilitate deeply spiritual experiences. The documentary explores the confluence of science and spirituality in the first psychedelic research studies since the 1970s with terminally ill patients.
As a society we devote a great deal of attention to treating cancer, but very little to treating the human being who is dying of cancer. The recent resurgence of psychedelic research is once again revealing the power of compounds like psilocybin to profoundly alter our understanding of both life and death. Through the eyes of patients, their loved ones, therapists, and researchers, ‘A New Understanding’ examines the use of psilocybin in a controlled setting to reduce psychospiritual anxiety, depression, and physical pain.
The treatment aims to help the patient understand that a ‘good’ death is possible, and to help the patient’s family deal well with the dying process. ‘A New Understanding’ shows patients and their families coming to terms with dying through the skillful treatment of the whole human being. If we can learn to work more skillfully with dying, we will also learn to take better care of life.