The psychedelic drug in “magic mushrooms” can quickly and effectively help treat anxiety and depression in cancer patients, studies suggest.
Psilocybin, also called shrooms, purple passion and little smoke, comes from certain kinds of mushrooms. A single dose of psilocybin may reduce anxiety and depression in patients with advanced cancer.
Both studies were conducted by investigators from the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, NY and Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, MD. Both had similar results, reported in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
For the first study, Griffiths and team monitored anxiety and depression.
“The most interesting and remarkable finding is that a single dose of psilocybin, which lasts 4 to 6 hours, produced enduring decreases in depression and anxiety symptoms and this may represent a fascinating new model for treating some psychiatric conditions.” says Roland Griffiths, Ph.D., co-author of the Johns Hopkins study and professor of behavioral biology in the Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins.
The second study provides further evidence of the possible psychological benefits of psilocybin.
“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” says Stephen Ross, of the Department of Psychiatry at NYU Langone.
“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.” he added.
Still, it is early in the research process. Hundreds of people have now safely received doses of psilocybin, but the drug is still considered a Schedule 1 drug by the Drug Enforcement Agency, meaning it legally has no currently accepted medical use.
The results from both trials were encouraging enough that the scientists involved hope they’ll be able to get FDA consent to move forward to a large-scale Phase 3 study, the third and final of three sets of human trials that are needed before the FDA considers approving a new drug.