Psilocybin Can Pull Cancer Patients Quickly Out of Despair
Hallucinogenic drug relieves depression, anxiety quickly; effect can last for months
THURSDAY, Dec. 1, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- A single dose of psilocybin can quickly lifts the spirits of cancer patients, and the effect can last as long as six months, according to two studies published online Dec. 1 in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
In one study, researchers led by Roland Griffiths, Ph.D., of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, treated 51 adults with life-threatening cancer with a low dose of psilocybin followed five weeks later with a higher dose of the drug. Most patients experienced relief from their anxiety and depression that lasted up to six months, the researchers found.
In the second study, a team led by Stephen Ross, M.D., of the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, randomly assigned 29 patients with advanced cancer to either a single dose of psilocybin or the vitamin niacin. Among 80 percent of the patients, psilocybin rapidly brought relief from distress. Moreover, the effect lasted for more than six months, based on test scores for anxiety and depression, the researchers found.
"Our results represent the strongest evidence to date of a clinical benefit from psilocybin therapy, with the potential to transform care for patients with cancer-related psychological distress," Ross said in a Langone news release. "If larger clinical trials prove successful, then we could ultimately have available a safe, effective, and inexpensive medication dispensed under strict control to alleviate the distress that increases suicide rates among cancer patients."