HealthDay News — According to two studies published in the Journal of Psycho-pharmacology, a single dose of psilocybin can quickly lift the spirits of cancer patients and the effect can last as long as 6 months.

In one study, researchers led by Roland Griffiths, PhD, of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, treated 51 adults with life-threatening cancer with a low dose of psilocybin followed 5 weeks later with a higher dose of the drug. 

Most patients experienced relief from their anxiety and depression that lasted up to 6 months, the researchers found.


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In the second study, a team led by Stephen Ross, MD, of the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, randomly assigned 29 patients with advanced cancer to either a single dose of psilocybin or the vitamin niacin. 

Among 80% of the patients, psilocybin rapidly brought relief from distress. Moreover, the effect lasted for more than 6 months, based on test scores for anxiety and depression, the researchers found.

“Our results represent the strongest evidence to date of a clinical benefit from psilocybin therapy, with the potential to transform care for patients with cancer-related psychological distress,” Ross said in a Langone news release. “If larger clinical trials prove successful, then we could ultimately have available a safe, effective, and inexpensive medication dispensed under strict control to alleviate the distress that increases suicide rates among cancer patients.”

Reference

Griffiths RR, et al. “Psilocybin Produces Substantial And Sustained Decreases In Depression And Anxiety In Patients With Life-Threatening Cancer: A Randomized Double-Blind Trial”. Journal of Psychopharmacology. 2016. 30(12): 1181-1197. doi: 10.1177/0269881116675513

Ross S, et al. “Rapid And Sustained Symptom Reduction Following Psilocybin Treatment For Anxiety And Depression In Patients With Life-Threatening Cancer: A Randomized Controlled Trial”. Journal of Psychopharmacology. 2016. 30(12): 1165-1180. doi: 10.1177/0269881116675512

Nutt D. “Psilocybin For Anxiety And Depression In Cancer Care? Lessons From The Past And Prospects For The Future”. Journal of Psychopharmacology. 2016. 30(12): 1163-1164. doi: 10.1177/0269881116675754

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