For the longest time, the field of palliative care has been focused on making seriously or terminally ill patients as physically comfortable as possible for the time they have left. This often includes medication to relieve pain, treatments such as surgery and radiation therapy to treat symptoms and side effects, and physical therapy.
Although palliative care also includes emotional and spiritual support to help patients cope with the situation, the focus is mostly placed on alleviating physical symptoms and discomforts. However, the psychedelic revolution may finally make it possible for palliative care patients to receive treatment for both their physical and psychological ailments.
Psychedelics have emerged in recent years as a safe and effective alternative treatment for a wide variety of mental disorders. This includes conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety that tend to affect palliative care patients. Armed with psychedelic-assisted treatments, clinicians may be able to soothe their palliative care patients of their mental burdens while treating their physical symptoms.
As psychedelic policies become more permissive to allow psychedelic research, more research on the possible medical applications for psychedelics is emerging. Big pharma as well as other institutional investors are betting big on psychedelics and have invested millions of dollars into developing psychedelic treatments and medicines.
Ben Lightburn, CEO of Filament Health, a company that has thrown its hat into the psychedelics drug development field, says that it is encouraging to see the “breadth and pace of psychedelic research increase.” He says that the medicines currently in development could end up helping millions of people who have treatable conditions but haven’t received the treatment they need. As more clinical trials prove the safety and effectiveness of psychedelic treatments, Lightburn says, he expects lawmakers to relax psychedelic policies.
Filament currently has a licensing agreement with biotech company Psyence Group to develop palliative care medications from psilocybin, the main psychoactive agent in magic mushrooms. These medications would be used to alleviate the symptoms of conditions such as anxiety, depression and even drug dependence in palliative care patients.
A 2016 NYU Grossman School of Medicine study found that just one dose of psilocybin alleviated feelings of hopelessness, anxiety and depression in cancer patients. An estimated 80% of the cancer patients reported that they enjoyed positive feelings for up to four and a half years after the initial dose of psilocybin. Another study of 3,000 patients found that under the right conditions, psychedelic agents made patients less afraid of death.
Further research is needed to determine how clinicians could leverage psychedelic treatments to improve palliative care.
As entities such as Compass Pathways PLC (NASDAQ: CMPS) press ahead with their R&D programs, there is no telling what additional therapeutic benefits of psychedelics will become apparent in the months and years ahead.
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