OPEN Foundation

Day: 13 August 2018

Efficacy, tolerability, and safety of serotonergic psychedelics for the management of mood, anxiety, and substance-use disorders: a systematic review of systematic reviews

Abstract

Mood, anxiety, and substance-use disorders are among the most prevalent psychiatric disorders in the population. Although several pharmacological treatments are available, they are not effective for a significant proportion of patients and are associated with several adverse reactions. Therefore, new treatments should be explored. Recent studies suggest that serotonergic hallucinogens/psychedelics including ayahuasca, psilocybin, and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) have anxiolytic, antidepressive, and antiaddictive effects. Areas Covered: A systematic review of systematic reviews assessing the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of serotonergic hallucinogens/psychedelic was performed using the PubMed data base until 11 April 2018. Systematic reviews with or without meta-analysis were analyzed, but only reviews that described at least one randomized controlled trial (RCT) were included. Expert Commentary: Psilocybin and LSD reduced anxiety and depression in cancer patients and symptoms of alcohol and tobacco dependence, and ayahuasca reduced depression symptoms in treatment-resistant depression. Although the results are promising, several studies were open label, and only few were RCTs, and most had small sample sizes and a short duration. Single or few doses of these drugs seem to be well tolerated, but long-term studies are lacking. New RCTs with bigger samples and longer duration are needed to replicate these findings.

dos Santos, R. G., Bouso, J. C., Alcázar-Córcoles, M. Á., & Hallak, J. E. (2018). Efficacy, tolerability, and safety of serotonergic psychedelics for the management of mood, anxiety, and substance-use disorders: A systematic review of systematic reviews. Expert review of clinical pharmacology11(9), 889-902., 10.1080/17512433.2018.1511424
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Therapeutic use of classic psychedelics to treat cancer-related psychiatric distress

Cancer is highly prevalent and one of the leading causes of global morbidity and mortality. Psychological and existential suffering is common in cancer patients, associated with poor psychiatric and medical outcomes. Promising early-phase clinical research (1960s to early 1970s) suggested a therapeutic signal for serotoninergic psychedelics (e.g. psilocybin, LSD) in treating cancer-related psychiatric distress. After several decades of quiescence, research on psychedelic-assisted therapy to treat psychiatric disorders in cancer patients has resumed within the last 2 decades in the US and Europe. This review article is based on a systematic search of clinical trials from 1960–2018 researching the therapeutic use of psychedelic treatment in patients with serious or terminal illnesses and related psychiatric illness. The search found 10 eligible clinical trials, with a total of 445 participants, with the vast majority of the patients having advanced or terminal cancer diagnoses. Six open label trials, published between 1964 and 1980 (n = 341), suggested that psychedelic therapy (mostly with LSD) may improve cancer-related depression, anxiety, and fear of death. Four RCTs trials were published between 2011 and 2016 (n = 104), mostly with psilocybin treatment (n = 92), and demonstrated that psychedelic-assisted treatment can produce rapid, robust, and sustained improvements in cancer-related psychological and existential distress.
Ross, S. (2018). Therapeutic use of classic psychedelics to treat cancer-related psychiatric distress. International Review of Psychiatry30(4), 317-330., 10.1080/09540261.2018.1482261
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Sub-acute and long-term effects of ayahuasca on affect and cognitive thinking style and their association with ego dissolution

Abstract

Rationale

Ayahuasca is a psychotropic plant tea from South America used for religious purposes by indigenous people of the Amazon. Increasing evidence indicates that ayahuasca may have therapeutic potential in the treatment of mental health disorders and can enhance mindfulness-related capacities. Most research so far has focused on acute and sub-acute effects of ayahuasca on mental health-related parameters and less on long-term effects.

Objectives

The present study aimed to assess sub-acute and long-term effects of ayahuasca on well-being and cognitive thinking style. The second objective was to assess whether sub-acute and long-term effects of ayahuasca depend on the degree of ego dissolution that was experienced after consumption of ayahuasca.

Results

Ayahuasca ceremony attendants (N = 57) in the Netherlands and Colombia were assessed before, the day after, and 4 weeks following the ritual. Relative to baseline, ratings of depression and stress significantly decreased after the ayahuasca ceremony and these changes persisted for 4 weeks. Likewise, convergent thinking improved post-ayahuasca ceremony up until the 4 weeks follow-up. Satisfaction with life and several aspects of mindfulness increased the day after the ceremony, but these changes failed to reach significance 4 weeks after. Changes in affect, satisfaction with life, and mindfulness were significantly correlated to the level of ego dissolution experienced during the ayahuasca ceremony and were unrelated to previous experience with ayahuasca.

Conclusion

It is concluded that ayahuasca produces sub-acute and long-term improvements in affect and cognitive thinking style in non-pathological users. These data highlight the therapeutic potential of ayahuasca in the treatment of mental health disorders, such as depression.

Uthaug, M. V., van Oorsouw, K., Kuypers, K. P. C., van Boxtel, M., Broers, N. J., Mason, N. L., … & Ramaekers, J. G. (2018). Sub-acute and long-term effects of ayahuasca on affect and cognitive thinking style and their association with ego dissolution. Psychopharmacology235(10), 2979-2989., 10.1007/s00213-018-4988-3
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Psychedelics as anti-inflammatory agents

Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT)2A receptor agonists have recently emerged as promising new treatment options for a variety of disorders. The recent success of these agonists, also known as psychedelics, like psilocybin for the treatment of anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and addiction, has ushered in a renaissance in the way these compounds are perceived in the medical community and populace at large. One emerging therapeutic area that holds significant promise is their use as anti-inflammatory agents. Activation of 5-HT2A receptors produces potent anti-inflammatory effects in animal models of human inflammatory disorders at sub-behavioural levels. This review discusses the role of the 5-HT2A receptor in the inflammatory response, as well as highlight studies using the 5-HT2A agonist (R)-2,5-dimethoxy-4-iodoamphetamine [(R)-DOI] to treat inflammation in cellular and animal models. It also examines potential mechanisms by which 5-HT2A agonists produce their therapeutic effects. Overall, psychedelics regulate inflammatory pathways via novel mechanisms, and may represent a new and exciting treatment strategy for several inflammatory disorders.

Flanagan, T. W., & Nichols, C. D. (2018). Psychedelics as anti-inflammatory agents. International Review of Psychiatry30(4), 363-375., 10.1080/09540261.2018.1481827

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