NEW YORK, Dec. 1, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- When combined with psychological counseling, a single dose of a mind-altering compound contained in psychedelic mushrooms significantly lessens mental anguish in distressed cancer patients for months at a time, according to results of a clinical trial led by researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center.
Published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology online Dec.1, the study showed that one-time treatment with the hallucinogenic drug psilocybin — whose use required federal waivers because it is a banned substance — quickly brought relief from distress that then lasted for more than six months in 80 percent of the 29 study subjects monitored, based on clinical evaluation scores for anxiety and depression. The NYU Langone-led study was published side by side with a similar study from Johns Hopkins. Study results were also endorsed in 11 accompanying editorials from leading experts in psychiatry, addiction, and palliative care. "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 study lead investigator Stephen Ross, MD, director of substance abuse services in 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," says Ross, also an associate professor of psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine. Study co-investigator Jeffrey Guss, MD, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at NYU Langone, notes that psilocybin has been studied for decades and has an established safety profile. Study participants, he says, experienced no serious negative effects, such as hospitalization or more serious mental health conditions. Although the neurological benefits of psilocybin are not completely understood, it has been proven to activate parts of the brain also impacted by the signaling chemical serotonin, which is known to control mood and anxiety. Serotonin imbalances have also been linked to depression.