New Trial on Cancer-Related Anxiety Drug Psilocybin

Illustration of mesothelioma research

A new trial shows psychotropic drug psilocybin has helped reduce anxiety and depression in conjunction with psychotherapy for patients with life-threatening cancer. This drug is classified as a serotonergic psychoactive agent.

The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study included 29 patients with cancer-related anxiety and depression. They received psilocybin in conjunction with psychotherapy. At seven weeks, there was a crossover between the groups.

Psilocybin resulted in immediate, substantial, and sustained improvements in the patients’ anxiety and depression levels. Demoralization and hopelessness were decreased while spiritual wellbeing and quality of life increased.

About 60-80% of the participants continued to experience the same effects after the crossover. Existential distress and improved attitudes towards death were also improved after the 6.5-month follow-up, showing promise for others.

The study is similar to another one run by psychiatrist Dr. Charles Grob at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. However, the dosage was higher at 0.3mg/kg for this new clinical trial at New York University.

This experimental treatment is based on a few theories. The famous British psychiatrist Humphrey Osmond believed serotonergic hallucinogens’ therapeutic mechanism lies in their ability to let a person access novel dimensions of consciousness.

Dobkin de Rios and Grob noted a “managed altered state of consciousness” allows one to facilitate emotional discharge and manage irreconcilable conflict.

Anxiety and depression are common side effects of a cancer diagnosis. When one hears the word cancer, along with the initial shock often comes anxiety. Waiting for the diagnosis, going through treatment, and wondering what will happen to your family if you don’t survive are all considerations.

Anxiety is also common due to the incredible costs of treatment. In 2014, males had an increased annual cost of their medical care equaling $4,187 and for females it was $3,293. All the while, their wages are decreasing due to their illness. Typically, most insurance companies cover little to no amount of treatment costs.

According to mesothelioma cancer survivor Patricia Powell Hargrett, “We [my husband and I] were required to pay 20% of each bill that we accrued during surgery and chemo treatment. However, we were not able to pay the 20% health cost all at once.”

“Because I was not of age to receive social security, my individual finances were limited. It took us a couple of years to finish paying all of the medical bills,” added Hargrett.

There are also costs such as traveling to see specialists in other cities or states, staying at hotels, and paying for healthy food while traveling. Even if a patient survives, going back to work can cause anxiety as well as knowing the cancer can always come back.