Hallucinogen can safely ease anxiety in advanced-stage cancer patients: study

Sep 06, 2010

In the first human study of its kind to be published in more than 35 years, researchers found psilocybin, an hallucinogen which occurs naturally in "magic mushrooms," can safely improve the moods of patients with advanced-stage cancer and anxiety, according to an article published online today in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Patients enrolled in the study at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (LA BioMed) demonstrated improvement of mood and reduction of up to six months after undergoing treatment, with significance reached at the six-month point on the "Beck Depression Inventory" and at one and three months on the "State-Trait Anxiety Inventory." A third screening tool, the "Profile of Mood States," identified mood improvement after treatment that approached but did not reach significance.

"We are working with a patient population that often does not respond well to conventional treatments," said Charles S. Grob, MD, an LA BioMed principal investigator who led the research team. "Following their treatments with psilocybin, the patients and their families reported benefit from the use of this hallucinogen in reducing their anxiety. This study shows psilocybin can be administered safely, and that further investigation of hallucinogens should be pursued to determine their potential benefits."

Researchers conducted extensive investigations of psychedelic drugs in the 1950s and 1960s and found promising improvements in mood and anxiety, as well as a diminished need for narcotic pain medication among advanced-stage . The research was abandoned in the early 1970s in the wake of widespread recreational usage that led to stiff federal laws regulating hallucinogens.

"Political and cultural pressures forced an end to these studies in the 1970s," said Dr. Grob. "We were able to revive this research under strict federal supervision and demonstrate that this is a field of study with great promise for alleviating anxiety and other psychiatric symptoms."

The LA BioMed study is the first research publication in several decades to examine the hallucinogen treatment model with advanced-cancer anxiety. Twelve volunteers, ages 36 to 58, with advanced-stage cancer and anxiety were given a moderate dose of 0.2 mg/kg of psilocybin and, on a separate occasion, a placebo. Neither the volunteers nor the researchers monitoring them knew whether they'd been given a placebo or psilocybin.

The two experimental sessions took place several weeks apart in a hospital clinical research unit at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, where Dr. Grob is a professor of psychiatry. The research volunteers were monitored for the six hours following their dose. The volunteers were encouraged to lie in bed, wear eye shades and listen to music during the first few hours after ingesting the medication or the placebo. They were interviewed after the six-hour session and over the next six months to assess the outcome of the treatment.

Explore further: Researchers use computer-based treatment for children with anxiety

More information: Arch Gen Psychiatry. Published online September 6, 2010. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2010.116

Provided by Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center

4.9 /5 (8 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Genetic predisposition may play a role in anxiety disorders

Aug 27, 2008

Finnish scientists have identified genes that may predispose to anxiety disorders. Research conducted under the supervision of Academy Research Fellow Iiris Hovatta have focused on genes that influence human behaviour, and ...

Depression and anxiety can double chances of heart ailments

Jan 18, 2008

Matters of the mind can affect matters of the heart. A new study by McGill University and Université de Montréal researchers has found that major anxiety and/or depression, can double a coronary artery disease patient’s ...

Recommended for you

New book examines the known and unknown about OCD

13 hours ago

A new and thorough overview of a disturbing behavioural condition that will affect 2.3 per cent of the UK population in their lifetime has been written by University of Sussex researchers.

Ibuprofen relieves women's hurt feelings, not men's

15 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—For years, researchers have known that physical pain relievers such as ibuprofen can also help ease emotional pain, but new research suggests that ibuprofen has contrasting effects on men ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

bottomlesssoul
5 / 5 (1) Sep 07, 2010
I think hallucinogens should be tested on easing anxiety in people with longer possible lifespans as well.

I've tried them and they seem to work but I'd like more than one independent observation.
ueli
5 / 5 (1) Sep 07, 2010
If they work for advanced-stage cancer patients they obviously work for "healthy" people with anxiety problems too. I have tried them and i know many people who have and have benefited from it.
neiorah
5 / 5 (1) Sep 07, 2010
They have also been used to help people with emotional problems or those whom are in abusive relationships. It allows them to clearly see what is happening and enables them to make better decisions than they would have otherwise. I was privy to this and I saw in black and white what was going on with my "boyfriend" and it sickened me so making the right decision was easy.