JAMA Logo Hallucinogen is a drug which apparently causes hallucinations which stimulate people to see images, hear sounds and feel sensations which may seem to be real but do not exist in reality. A pilot analysis underlines that the hallucinogen psilocybin may be viable and safe to manage patients with advanced-stage cancer and anxiety with rising effects on mood.

While experts did not follow-up on previous analysis that were conducted earlier, the medical essence of hallucinogens is now being re-examined in psychiatric settings. Scientists evaluated the safety and effectiveness of psilocybin which is a hallucinogen with some psychological effects which were apparently similar to lysergic acid diethylamide. The analysis was conducted among 12 adults who were affected with advanced-stage cancer and anxiety.

“In recent years, there has been a growing awareness that the psychological, spiritual and existential crises often encountered by patients with cancer and their families need to be addressed more vigorously,” the authors remarked. “From the late 1950s to the early 1970s, research was carried out exploring the use of hallucinogens to treat the existential anxiety, despair and isolation often associated with advanced-stage cancer. Those studies described critically ill individuals undergoing psychospiritual epiphanies, often with powerful and sustained improvement in mood and anxiety as well as diminished need for narcotic pain medication.”

Individuals were given clear capsules either of active psilocybin or a placebo in random order. They were given these doses in two six-hour treatment sessions several weeks apart. Experts observed physiological responses like blood pressure, heart rate and temperature were measured before and after the analysis.

“Safe physiological and psychological responses were documented during treatment sessions,” the authors quoted. “We also observed no adverse psychological effects from the treatment. All subjects tolerated the treatment sessions well, with no indication of severe anxiety or a ‘bad trip.'” In addition, anxiety scores improved at one and three months after treatment and a depression inventory revealed an improvement of mood that began two weeks after treatment and reached significance at six months.”

Authors further add, “This study established the feasibility and safety of administering moderate doses of psilocybin to patients with advanced-stage cancer and anxiety. Some of the data revealed a positive trend toward improved mood and anxiety. These results support the need for more research in this long-neglected field.”

In addition, scientists evaluated psychological measures like depression, mood and anxiety initially and at the end of the session. Mainly, these measurements were conducted one day and two weeks after the session and at monthly intervals for the following six months.

These findings will appear in the January 2011 print issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.