A single dose of psilocybin, the major hallucinogenic component in “magic mushrooms,” induces long-lasting decreases in anxiety and depression in patients diagnosed with life-threatening cancer, according to a new study presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology.
Debilitating symptoms of anxiety and depression are not uncommon in patients who receive a cancer diagnosis. Reports from the 1960s and 1970s suggest that hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD may alleviate those symptoms in people with cancer, but experts say more research is needed.
In this new study, Roland Griffiths and colleagues from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine investigated the effects of psilocybin on symptoms of anxiety and depression in individuals diagnosed with life-threatening cancer.
Five weeks after receiving a dose of psilocybin that was high to induce changes in perception and mystical-type experiences, patients reported significantly lower levels of anxiety and depression compared with patients that received a low dose of the drug. The positive effects on mood were long-lasting: they persisted in the patients at 6 month follow-up.
The authors suggest that a single dose of psilocybin may be sufficient to produce enduring decreases in negative mood in patients with a life-threatening cancer.
Earlier this year, research from Johns Hopkins and the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that a history of psychedelic drug use is associated with less psychological distress and fewer suicidal thoughts, planning, and attempts. The findings suggest that some nonaddictive psychedelic drugs may hold promise for depression, and that these psychedelics’ highly restricted legal status should be reconsidered to facilitate scientific studies.
Research into the use of psychedelics including LSD, mescaline, DMT, and MDMA to treat psychological issues such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, and addiction has seen a resurgence in recent years, and results are promising.