Psilocybin and psychotherapy show promise in relieving anxiety and depression related to cancer diagnoses.
In 2016, the Journal of Psychopharmacology published a study that found a one-time, single dose of psilocybin could rapidly quell symptoms of anxiety and depression in cancer patients for up to six months. A recent follow-up study on those participants found that the one dose of psilocybin continued to provide symptom relief in the subset of participants who also underwent psychotherapy.
The original study involved 16 participants who suffered from cancer-related anxiety and depression. It was designed to compare a single dose of psilocybin with a single dose of niacin, a B vitamin. The results suggested that those who were treated with psilocybin along with psychotherapy experienced “improvements in psychiatric and existential distress, quality of life, and spiritual well-being up to seven weeks.” At the six-month follow-up, 60-80 percent of participants continued to experience symptom relief, researchers found.
When study participants were followed up with nearly five years later, researchers found that 60-80 percent continued to experience relief from anxiety and depression symptoms and 71-100 percent credited the single-dose of psilocybin combined with psychotherapy for providing that relief. They also “rated it among the most personally meaningful and spiritually significant experiences of their lives,” the researchers noted.
“These findings suggest that psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy holds promise in promoting long-term relief from cancer-related psychiatric distress,” the researchers concluded. “Limited conclusions, however, can be drawn regarding the efficacy of this therapy due to the crossover design of the parent study. Nonetheless, the present study adds to the emerging literature base suggesting that psilocybin-facilitated therapy may enhance the psychological, emotional, and spiritual well-being of patients with life-threatening cancer.”