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Group Psychotherapy Coupled with Psilocybin Shows Promise for Cancer Patients

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A recent study has found that psilocybin-assisted group psychotherapy can help alleviate the mental woes of cancer patients with depression. While several treatments are designed to kill cancer cells and alleviate the physical symptoms caused by cancer, the mental distress associated with a cancer diagnosis and treatment is rarely addressed.

Research shows that around 25% of people diagnosed with cancer suffer from depression. Cancer patients also deal with emotions such as anxiety, fear, sadness and grief, especially if they are diagnosed with particularly aggressive cancers. These psychological symptoms can cause cancer patients to become fatigued, withdrawn, lose interest in their preferred activities, and experience thinking and memory problems.

The recent study, whose findings were reported in the “Journal of Pain and Symptom Management,” shows that using psilocybin during group psychotherapy sessions may relieve some of these psychological symptoms.

Psychedelics represent a new and exciting frontier in the psychiatric field. A growing body of research has revealed that psychedelics may be able to treat various mental health disorders safely, effectively and with minimal side effects. Findings from preliminary studies have been so encouraging that institutions are investing millions of dollars into the development of psychedelic-based treatments for the mass market.

And with a significant portion of the American public currently dealing with conditions such as depression and PTSD with minimal relief from conventional treatments, psychedelics already have a large market desperate for effective therapies.

Prior studies have found that psilocybin, the main hallucinogenic agent in magic mushrooms, can be effective at treating major depressive disorder. Researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine have found that psilocybin treatment can offer relief from depression for up to a year.

However, since most studies on the efficacy of psilocybin against depression over the long term have mostly focused on individual subjects, researchers wanted to see how the psychedelic acted in a group setting, especially in regard to an emotionally challenging and often isolating condition such as cancer. Assistant professor of psychiatry at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute at the University of Utah and study author Ben Lewis says that there are limited options for treating depression and anxiety symptoms in people diagnosed with cancer or terminal conditions.

He noted that while prior studies have provided promising results, the fact that they used individual format sessions makes access and scalability more challenging. Rather than studying individual models, Lewis’ team used a full-group model to test the efficacy, feasibility and safety of using psilocybin-assisted group therapy.

The team’s findings indicated that the group therapy was safe and well tolerated with no participants reporting any adverse effects other than from headache, hypertension and nausea in one patient. However, the researchers discovered that these symptoms were caused by viral gastroenteritis not psilocybin.

More about the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics is still being brought to light by psychedelics industry actors such as atai Life Sciences N.V. (NASDAQ: ATAI), so the world can look forward to more novel ways to use these substances for health and wellness purposes.

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