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Benefits of Psilocybin-Assisted Psychotherapy May Be Lasting

Reductions in anxiety, depression in cancer-related psychiatric distress sustained at 3.2 and 4.5 years

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 29, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy may promote long-term benefits in terms of reductions in anxiety, depression, and hopelessness among patients with cancer-related psychiatric distress, according to a study published online Jan. 9 in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

Gabrielle I. Agin-Liebes, from Palo Alto University in California, and colleagues conducted a long-term within-subjects follow-up analysis involving 16 participants in a trial evaluating single-dose psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy in cancer-related psychiatric distress, 15 of whom agreed to participate at an average of 3.2 and 4.5 years following psilocybin administration.

The researchers found that at the first and second follow-up periods, reductions in anxiety, depression, hopelessness, demoralization, and death anxiety were sustained. Large within-group effects were seen. The criteria for clinically significant antidepressant or anxiolytic responses were met by 60 to 80 percent of participants at the 4.5-year follow-up. Positive life changes were overwhelmingly attributed to psilocybin-assisted therapy experience (71 to 100 percent); it was rated as among the most personally meaningful and spiritually significant experiences of patients' lives.

"It would be an historic and important milestone if the National Institutes of Health were to fund advanced research exploring the therapeutic potential of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy in patients with life-threatening cancer and concomitant psychiatric and existential distress," the authors write.

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