Psychedelic drugs show promise for anxiety, depression due to life-threatening diseases

08 Jun 2023
Psychedelic drugs show promise for anxiety, depression

Use of psychedelic drugs appears to have some benefits in reducing anxiety and depressive symptoms among patients with cancer or other life-threatening diseases, reports a study.

A systematic review with meta-analyses was conducted in randomized controlled trials that examined patients with cancer or other life-threatening diseases using validated anxiety and depression scales. The authors searched the database of PubMed through 15 November 2022 and applied citations to prespecified inclusion criteria.

The disease rating scales used for anxiety or depression were as follows: State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI: STAI Trait [STAI-T], STAI-State [STAI-S]), Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS: HADS-Anxiety [HADS-A], HADS-Depression [HADS-D]), Profile of Mood States (POMS), and the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D or GRID-HAM-D-17).

In addition, the authors also measured the patients’ blood pressure and heart rate to assess safety.

Five trials, mostly among cancer patients, had available data on anxiety and depressive symptoms. These studies reported positive results for psychedelic drugs in several anxiety and depression scales when compared with placebo. However, these agents also resulted in increased blood pressure and heart rate.

Some concerns of risk of bias were raised due to the difficulty in randomizing a psychedelic trial and a high proportion of patients who had used psychedelics in the past. In addition, high heterogeneity was seen for all analyses, which the authors could not elucidate.

“Although the results are promising, future trials are needed to assess the optimal psychedelic [drug], dose, number of sessions required, and how psychedelic-naïve patients would respond both psychologically and haemodynamically before this therapy can be considered for widescale clinical use,” the authors said.

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