A single dose of psilocybin, the compound found in magic mushrooms, can have anti-anxiety and anti-depressant effects which can last for nearly five years after being administered, new research suggests.
Researchers at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine said that the compound, when given to patients alongside psychotherapy, resulted in improvements in emotional and existential distress in cancer patients.
The use of the drug was first detailed in a landmark study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in 2016, where the new research has also been published.
It found that psilocybin “produced immediate, substantial, and sustained improvements in anxiety and depression” in cancer patients, who can often be demoralised by the disease.
A follow-up assessment half a year after the dose found up to 80% of participants had clinically significant reductions in their depression or anxiety, as well as improved attitudes toward death.
In their most recent work, the scientists conducted follow-up assessments at about three years and four and half years after the dosage.
New York University said: “Participants overwhelmingly (71-100%) attributed positive life changes to the psilocybin-assisted therapy experience and rated it among the most personally meaningful and spiritually significant experiences of their lives.
“Adding to evidence dating back as early as the 1950s, our findings strongly suggest that psilocybin therapy is a promising means of improving the emotional, psychological, and spiritual well-being of patients with life-threatening cancer,” said Dr Stephen Ross, lead investigator of the 2016 study.
“This approach has the potential to produce a paradigm shift in the psychological and existential care of patients with cancer, especially those with terminal illness,” added Dr Ross.