A study published in the American Cancer Society’s peer-reviewed “CANCER” journal has revealed that psilocybin-assisted group therapy may help treat depression in cancer patients. Psilocybin is one of several classic psychedelics that have been subject to extensive research in recent years due to claims of medical efficacy. Study author and Sunstone Therapies cofounder and chief executive officer Manish Agrawal conducted the study to find suitable ways of addressing the immense emotional and mental distress that often accompanies a cancer diagnosis.
Past research has found that hallucinogens such as psilocybin, LSD and MDMA, may be effective at offering long-term relief against mental disorders such as treatment-resistant depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In addition, researchers have found that psychedelic treatments are much more effective when they are combined with talk therapy, leading to increased research into psychedelic-assisted therapy protocols worldwide.
Psilocybin, the main hallucinogenic agent in magic mushrooms, is among the most popular psychedelics, and it has attracted considerable mainstream and scientific attention thanks to its potent mental-health benefits.
Although 20% of the millions of Americans suffer from major depression, most cancer treatment protocols are designed to treat physical symptoms but effectively ignore mental health. Agrawal notes that his two-decade-long career as an oncologist allowed him to see how the effects of cancer extend beyond the physical. He said that many cancer patients continue to suffer from poor mental health even after they have made a full physical recovery. Consequently, Agrawal dedicated the next phase of his oncology career to developing a novel protocol for treating depression in patients diagnosed with cancer.
According to Agrawal, his team at Sunstone Therapies in Rockville has completed more than 100 psychedelic-assisted therapy treatments. The Rockville Center’s recent phase 2 open-label trial tested the feasibility of using psychedelic-assisted therapy in 30 adult cancer patients with major depression.
Each of the participants received a 25mg dose of synthesized psilocybin followed by individual and group therapy sessions. The researchers noted a significant reduction in patient depression severity costs. Specifically, 50% of the patients achieved full depressive symptoms remission while an impressive 80% exhibited a sustained response to the treatment.
According to Agrawal, the substance has “enormous potential” as a treatment for major depressive disorder in cancer patients. Psilocybin-assisted therapy resulted in a clinically meaningful drop in depression severity scores and caused only mild side effects, making it a potential alternative treatment for major depressive disorder.
Even so, Agrawal concedes that while the study was small and open label, its findings strongly support future research into the efficacy of psilocybin group therapy for depression in cancer patients.
Enterprises that are also studying psilocybin and other psychedelics, such as Seelos Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ: SEEL), could shed more light on how exactly these hallucinogens can help cancer patients and other groups of patients deal with depression and other mental-health challenges.
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