research team from New York University School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins
University School of Medicine are evaluating the use of the hallucinogenic drug
psilocybin in the treatment of anxiety and depression in patients with advanced
- Patients with
advanced cancer often suffer from depression and anxiety
- Psilocybin, a
drug of abuse that cause hallucinations may improve the quality of life in
- Further studies
and approvals are needed before the drug can be used for this purpose
The research is published in the Journal
Patients with advanced
cancer often have to fight depression
and anxiety. The
diagnosis of cancer itself can have a major impact on the patient's life. The
normal life of the patient and the patient's immediate family gets totally
disrupted with a large amount of time being spent in hospitals with tests done
to confirm cancer and its stage, as well as receiving numerous treatments with
side effects that take their own tool. These keep the patient anxious as well
as predispose to depression.
‘Psilocybin obtained from magic mushroom helps relieve depression and anxiety symptoms in advanced cancer patients.’
and depression can
get even worse if the patient realizes that the cancer is advanced, where quite
often the treatment is unable to bring about a complete recovery. Some patients
may also fear the impending death due to the advanced disease. The patients
often reduce social interaction and may neglect the cancer treatment. It is
necessary to address these mental disruptions in the patient, and make the
remainder of their lives as comfortable and happy as possible.
are exploring the use of psilocybin for the treatment of anxiety or depression
in patients with advanced cancer
. Of course, its use in these patients
will only be possible if psilocybin gets approval from the regulatory
authorities for the same.
research study from the New York University Langone Medical Center conducted
the study in 29 cancer patients who suffered from breast, digestive tract or
blood cancer and severe psychological stress due to their cancer
patients in the study were mostly women in the age range of 22 to 75 years.
Around two thirds of the patients suffered from advanced stage III or stage IV
cancer. The patients were given a single treatment with either 0.3 milligrams
per kilogram psilocybin or 250 milligrams of niacin, a type of vitamin B which
gives a "rush" following administration. After a period of seven weeks, those
who initially received psilocybin were given niacin and vice versa
. The patients were followed up for 8 months. The
patients also received psychological counseling during this period.
researchers caution that psilocybin may not be for everyone, especially
adolescents and schizophrenic patients
- Most patients
experienced quick relief from their psychological distress. Psilocybin
decreased cancer-related existential distress (such as demoralization and
hopelessness), increased spiritual wellbeing and quality of life, and was
associated with improved attitudes towards death.
- The relief was sustained
for 7 weeks and may even last for a few months
- Side effects
included non-clinically significant elevations in blood pressure and heart
rate, headaches, nausea, transient anxiety and transient near-psychotic
symptoms. The patients did not experience any serious mental side effects
or any other side effects that may have required hospitalization.
- Since only a
single dose is given under strict regulations, the question of abuse did
. Larger studies will be
required to prove the benefits of this drug in this subset of patients with
advanced cancer when used along with psychological counseling. Its use in other
conditions especially terminal diseases is another potential use of the drug.
Another similar study
was published in the same issue of the journal by researchers from Johns
Hopkins University School of Medicine. The results from this study also support
the findings of the above study. In this study, psilocybin was found to decrease depressed mood and anxiety, improve
quality of life and decrease death anxiety in patients with a life-threatening
Psilocybin From Magic
Psilocybin is actually a
drug of abuse that is obtained from a type of magic mushroom called Psilocybe
Ingestion of the drug causes hallucinations
where the person perceives something that is not there. It also causes an
inability to differentiate fantasy and reality. It probably brings about these
effects by acting on the serotoninergic system; serotonin is a brain chemical
that affects the person's mood. It has been tried during studies on other
mental health conditions like obsessive compulsive disorder. Its use is banned
in most countries.
- Ross S. Rapid and sustained symptom reduction following psilocybin treatment for anxiety and depression in
patients with life-threatening cancer: a randomized controlled trial. J Psychopharmacol December 2016 vol. 30 no. 12 1165-1180. Doi: 10.1177/0269881116675512
- Griffiths RR. Psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in
depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer: A randomized double-blind trial. J Psychopharmacol December 2016 vol. 30 no.
12 1181-1197. Doi: 10.1177/0269881116675513