Psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer

A randomized double-blind trial

Roland R Griffiths, Matthew W Johnson, Michael A Carducci, Annie Umbricht, William A. Richards, Brian D. Richards, Mary P. Cosimano, Margaret A. Klinedinst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Cancer patients often develop chronic, clinically significant symptoms of depression and anxiety. Previous studies suggest that psilocybin may decrease depression and anxiety in cancer patients. The effects of psilocybin were studied in 51 cancer patients with life-threatening diagnoses and symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. This randomized, double-blind, cross-over trial investigated the effects of a very low (placebo-like) dose (1 or 3 mg/70 kg) vs. a high dose (22 or 30 mg/70 kg) of psilocybin administered in counterbalanced sequence with 5 weeks between sessions and a 6-month follow-up. Instructions to participants and staff minimized expectancy effects. Participants, staff, and community observers rated participant moods, attitudes, and behaviors throughout the study. High-dose psilocybin produced large decreases in clinician- and self-rated measures of depressed mood and anxiety, along with increases in quality of life, life meaning, and optimism, and decreases in death anxiety. At 6-month follow-up, these changes were sustained, with about 80% of participants continuing to show clinically significant decreases in depressed mood and anxiety. Participants attributed improvements in attitudes about life/self, mood, relationships, and spirituality to the high-dose experience, with >80% endorsing moderately or greater increased well-being/life satisfaction. Community observer ratings showed corresponding changes. Mystical-type psilocybin experience on session day mediated the effect of psilocybin dose on therapeutic outcomes. Trial Registration ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT00465595

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1181-1197
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Psychopharmacology
Volume30
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016

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Psilocybin
Anxiety
Depression
Neoplasms
Spirituality
Cross-Over Studies
Placebos
Quality of Life

Keywords

  • anxiety
  • cancer
  • depression
  • hallucinogen
  • mystical experience
  • Psilocybin
  • symptom remission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)

Cite this

Psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer : A randomized double-blind trial. / Griffiths, Roland R; Johnson, Matthew W; Carducci, Michael A; Umbricht, Annie; Richards, William A.; Richards, Brian D.; Cosimano, Mary P.; Klinedinst, Margaret A.

In: Journal of Psychopharmacology, Vol. 30, No. 12, 01.12.2016, p. 1181-1197.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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