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J Psychopharmacol. 2016 Dec;30(12):1165-1180.

Rapid and sustained symptom reduction following psilocybin treatment for anxiety and depression in patients with life-threatening cancer: a randomized controlled trial.

Author information

1
Department of Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA stephen.ross@nyumc.org.
2
New York University College of Dentistry, Bluestone Center for Clinical Research, New York, NY, USA.
3
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA.
4
Department of Psychiatry, Bellevue Hospital Center, New York, USA.
5
NYU Langone Medical Center, New York, NY, USA.
6
New York University-Health and Hospitals Corporation (NYU-HHC) Clinical and Translational Science Institute, New York, NY, USA.
7
Department of Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA.
8
Palo Alto University, Palo Alto, CA, USA.
9
Department of Psychology, New York University, New York, NY, USA.
10
Department of Applied Psychology, New York University Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York, NY, USA.
11
Department of Radiology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Clinically significant anxiety and depression are common in patients with cancer, and are associated with poor psychiatric and medical outcomes. Historical and recent research suggests a role for psilocybin to treat cancer-related anxiety and depression.

METHODS:

In this double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial, 29 patients with cancer-related anxiety and depression were randomly assigned and received treatment with single-dose psilocybin (0.3 mg/kg) or niacin, both in conjunction with psychotherapy. The primary outcomes were anxiety and depression assessed between groups prior to the crossover at 7 weeks.

RESULTS:

Prior to the crossover, psilocybin produced immediate, substantial, and sustained improvements in anxiety and depression and led to decreases in cancer-related demoralization and hopelessness, improved spiritual wellbeing, and increased quality of life. At the 6.5-month follow-up, psilocybin was associated with enduring anxiolytic and anti-depressant effects (approximately 60-80% of participants continued with clinically significant reductions in depression or anxiety), sustained benefits in existential distress and quality of life, as well as improved attitudes towards death. The psilocybin-induced mystical experience mediated the therapeutic effect of psilocybin on anxiety and depression.

CONCLUSIONS:

In conjunction with psychotherapy, single moderate-dose psilocybin produced rapid, robust and enduring anxiolytic and anti-depressant effects in patients with cancer-related psychological distress.

TRIAL REGISTRATION:

ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT00957359.

KEYWORDS:

Psilocybin; anxiety; cancer; depression; mystical experience; psychedelic

PMID:
27909164
PMCID:
PMC5367551
DOI:
10.1177/0269881116675512
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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