Subjects: R and D
A single small dose of psilocybin, the hallucinogenic ingredient in “magic mushrooms,” has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression for up to 6 months in terminal cancer patients, according a report by Los Angeles-based scientists.
To reach these conclusions, Charles Grob and colleagues at UCLA Medical Center performed a small study involving 12 subjects with Stage IV cancer and anxiety that was attributed to their underlying condition. Each subject had 2 therapeutic sessions, one involving psilocybin and the other involving niacin, a drug that provokes flushing and nausea but has no psychological effects.
The drugs were administered in an inpatient clinical research unit. During the 6 hours after drug administration, subjects were asked to relax in bed, wear sunglasses and listen to music. They were monitored closely throughout.
Subjects received a low dose of psilocybin, 0.2 mg/kg. Every single one of them reported that their mood improved for at least 2 weeks after administration of the hallucinogen. In some cases, objective tests of mood and anxiety revealed significant improvements 6 full months after treatment. Most also said they needed to take fewer narcotic pain medications after receiving the drug. There were no adverse reactions.
“This is a landmark study in many ways,” Stephen Ross, clinical director of the Center of Excellence on Addiction at New York University‘s Langone Medical Center told the LA Times. “This is the first time a paper like this has come out in a prestigious psychiatric journal in 40 years.”
However, Grob, Ross and others involved in psilocybin research strongly advised cancer patients against experimenting with psilocybin on their own. The drugs “are dangerous…people can have fearful reactions, panic reactions, engage in dangerous behavior and do great harm to themselves,” they explained.
The write-up appears in the Archives of General Psychiatry.