What if there was a drug that could alleviate depression for years to come after a single dose? That’s exactly what researchers from the NYU Grossman School of Medicine set out to discover. According to their study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, a single dose of psilocybin combined with psychotherapy may lead to lower depression and anxiety in people with cancer.
Over 40% of people in the world today projected to develop cancer at some point in their lifetime and over a third of them are expected to develop severe depressions or other forms of distress. These conditions are often associated with poorer quality of life, increased rates of suicide, and lowered survival rate.
What is psilocybin?
The miracle drug is actually a simple compound found in psychedelic mushrooms. Combined with standard psychotherapy sessions, just a single dose of psilocybin can offer better results than standard pharmacologic treatment methods such as antidepressants. In fact, many other studies have shown that the use of antidepressants in cancer patients work for less than half of them and tend to not work any better than placebos.
Instead, psilocybin shows almost an immediate effect after a single dose, according to Stephen Ross, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry.
In the study, the first check-up was 6-and-a-half months after the intake of psilocybin. Even then, the drug was linked with sustained and long-lasting anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects in 60% to 80% of patients. These results were accompanied by improved health, better quality of life, reduced existential dread, and improved attitudes toward death.
At the second check-up, which was held 4-and-a-half years later, the positive results persisted. Between 71% and 100% of the participants shared that they had had overwhelmingly and uncharacteristic positive life changes after the initial treatment. The assisted therapy experience has also been a contributing factor but the results of the psilocybin + therapy combination are still far greater than those of antidepressants + therapy.
How can psilocybin have such long-lasting effects?
According to the research, the continuous effect of the drug isn’t because it remains in people’s bodies for so long but because it helps change their perspective on life and their current situation.
Although the precise mechanisms are not fully understood, the researchers believe that the drug works by making the brain more flexible and receptive to new ideas and thought patterns. This gives terminally ill cancer patients a natural way to cope with their situation while also improving their emotional well-being.
That’s why the accompanying psychotherapy is crucial – to help guide these changes in people’s outlooks to a healthier place. This is something that doesn’t happen with antidepressants, because they were made to simply dull down people’s negative emotions instead of nudging them toward a new way of thinking.