OPEN Foundation

Depression

Pilot Study of Psilocybin Treatment for Anxiety in Patients With Advanced-Stage Cancer

Abstract

Context: Researchers conducted extensive investigations of hallucinogens in the 1950s and 1960s. By the early 1970s, however, political and cultural pressures forced the cessation of all projects. This investigation reexamines a potentially promising clinical application of hallucinogens in the treatment of anxiety reactive to advanced-stage cancer.

Objective: To explore the safety and efficacy of psilocybin in patients with advanced-stage cancer and reactive anxiety.

Design: A double-blind, placebo-controlled study of patients with advanced-stage cancer and anxiety, with subjects acting as their own control, using a moderate dose (0.2 mg/kg) of psilocybin.

Setting: A clinical research unit within a large public sector academic medical center.

Participants: Twelve adults with advanced-stage cancer and anxiety.

Main Outcome Measures: In addition to monitoring safety and subjective experience before and during experimental treatment sessions, follow-up data including results from the Beck Depression Inventory, Profile of Mood States, and State-Trait Anxiety Inventory were collected unblinded for 6 months after treatment.

Results: Safe physiological and psychological responses were documented during treatment sessions. There were no clinically significant adverse events with psilocybin. The State-Trait Anxiety Inventory trait anxiety subscale demonstrated a significant reduction in anxiety at 1 and 3 months after treatment. The Beck Depression Inventory revealed an improvement of mood that reached significance at 6 months; the Profile of Mood States identified mood improvement after treatment with psilocybin that approached but did not reach significance.

Conclusions: 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.

Grob, C. S., Danforth, A. L., Chopra, G. S., Hagerty, M., McKay, C. R., Halberstadt, A. L., & Greer, G. R. (2011). Pilot Study of Psilocybin Treatment for Anxiety in Patients With Advanced-Stage Cancer. Archives of General Psychiatry, 68(1), 71-78. http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2010.116
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The neurobiology of psychedelic drugs: implications for the treatment of mood disorders

Abstract

After a pause of nearly 40 years in research into the effects of psychedelic drugs, recent advances in our understanding of the neurobiology of psychedelics, such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin and ketamine have led to renewed interest in the clinical potential of psychedelics in the treatment of various psychiatric disorders. Recent behavioural and neuroimaging data show that psychedelics modulate neural circuits that have been implicated in mood and affective disorders, and can reduce the clinical symptoms of these disorders. These findings raise the possibility that research into psychedelics might identify novel therapeutic mechanisms and approaches that are based on glutamate-driven neuroplasticity.

Vollenweider, F. X., & Kometer, M. (2010). The neurobiology of psychedelic drugs: implications for the treatment of mood disorders. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 11, 642-651. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nrn2884
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A Randomized Add-on Trial of an N-methyl-D-aspartate Antagonist in Treatment-Resistant Bipolar Depression

Abstract

Context: Existing therapies for bipolar depression have a considerable lag of onset of action. Pharmacological strategies that produce rapid antidepressant effects—for instance, within a few hours or days—would have an enormous impact on patient care and public health.

Objective: To determine whether an N-methyl-Daspartate–receptor antagonist produces rapid antidepressant effects in subjects with bipolar depression.

Design: A randomized, placebo-controlled, doubleblind, crossover, add-on study conducted from October 2006 to June 2009.

Setting: Mood Disorders Research Unit at the National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland.

Patients: Eighteen subjects with DSM-IV bipolar depression (treatment-resistant).

Interventions: Subjects maintained at therapeutic levels of lithium or valproate received an intravenous infusion of either ketamine hydrochloride (0.5 mg/kg) or placebo on 2 test days 2 weeks apart. The Montgomery- Asberg Depression Rating Scale was used to rate subjects at baseline and at 40, 80, 110, and 230 minutes and on days 1, 2, 3, 7, 10, and 14 postinfusion.

Results: Within 40 minutes, depressive symptoms significantly improved in subjects receiving ketamine compared with placebo (d=0.52, 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.28-0.76); this improvement remained significant through day 3. The drug difference effect size was largest at day 2 (d=0.80, 95% CI, 0.55-1.04). Seventy-one percent of subjects responded to ketamine and 6% responded to placebo at some point during the trial. One subject receiving ketamine and 1 receiving placebo developed manic symptoms. Ketamine was generally well tolerated; the most common adverse effect was dissociative symptoms, only at the 40-minute point.

Diazgranados, N.,  Ibrahim, L. Brutsche, N. E., Newberg, A., Kronstein, P.,  Khalife, S., … Zarate Jr., Z. A. (2010). A Randomized Add-on Trial of an N-methyl-D-aspartate Antagonist in Treatment-Resistant Bipolar Depression. Archives of General Psychiatry, 67(8). http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2010.90
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The Neurochemical Effects of Harmine in Animal Models of Depression

Abstract

Harmine is a β-carboline that acts on the CNS, by inhibiting the enzyme monoamine oxidase type A-MAO. This alkaloid binds with affinity to receptors on serotonin as 5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT2C subtypes and 5-HT2A receptors and imidazole (I2). The objective of this study was to investigate the physiological and behavioral effects of acute and chronic administration of harmine (5, 10 and 15 mg / kg) and imipramine (10, 20 and 30 mg / kg) using the forced swimming test (TNF) and the protocol of chronic mild stress (ECM) in an animal model. The results showed that rats treated acutely and chronically with harmine and imipramine reduced the immobility time in the TNF, and increased both climbigns and swimming time of rats compared to saline group, without affecting locomotor activity in the open field test. Both acute and chronic administration of harmine increased factor brain-derived neurotrophic (BDNF) protein levels in the rat hippocampus. Our findings demonstrated that chronic stressful situations induced anhedonia, hypertrophy of adrenal gland weight, increase ACTH circulating levels in rats and increase BDNF protein levels. Interestingly, treatment with harmine for 7 consecutive days, reversed anhedonia, the increase of adrenal gland weight, normalized ACTH circulating levels and BDNF protein levels. Finally, these findings further support the hypothesis that harmine could be a new pharmacological tool for the treatment of depression.

Fortunato, J. J. 2009. The Neurochemical Effects of Harmine in Animal Models of Depression. PhD thesis.
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Gaddum and LSD: the birth and growth of experimental and clinical neuropharmacology research on 5-HT in the UK

Abstract

The vasoconstrictor substance named serotonin was identified as 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) by Maurice Rapport in 1949. In 1951, Rapport gave Gaddum samples of 5-HT substance allowing him to develop a bioassay to both detect and measure the amine. Gaddum and colleagues rapidly identified 5-HT in brain and showed that lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) antagonized its action in peripheral tissues. Gaddum accordingly postulated that 5-HT might have a role in mood regulation. This review examines the role of UK scientists in the first 20 years following these major discoveries, discussing their role in developing assays for 5-HT in the CNS, identifying the enzymes involved in the synthesis and metabolism of 5-HT and investigating the effect of drugs on brain 5-HT. It reviews studies on the effects of LSD in humans, including Gaddum’s self-administration experiments. It outlines investigations on the role of 5-HT in psychiatric disorders, including studies on the effect of antidepressant drugs on the 5-HT concentration in rodent and human brain, and the attempts to examine 5-HT biochemistry in the brains of patients with depressive illness. It is clear that a rather small group of both preclinical scientists and psychiatrists in the UK made major advances in our understanding of the role of 5-HT in the brain, paving the way for much of the knowledge now taken for granted when discussing ways that 5-HT might be involved in the control of mood and the idea that therapeutic drugs used to alleviate psychiatric illness might alter the function of cerebral 5-HT.

Green, A. R. (2008). Gaddum and LSD: the birth and growth of experimental and clinical neuropharmacology research on 5‐HT in the UK. British journal of pharmacology154(8), 1583-1599., 10.1038/bjp.2008.207
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Effects of ayahuasca on psychometric measures of anxiety, panic-like and hopelessness in Santo Daime members

Abstract

The use of the hallucinogenic brew ayahuasca, obtained from infusing the shredded stalk of the malpighiaceous plant Banisteriopsis caapi with the leaves of other plants such as Psychotria viridis, is growing in urban centers of Europe, South and North America in the last several decades. Despite this diffusion, little is known about its effects on emotional states. The present study investigated the effects of ayahuasca on psychometric measures of anxiety, panic-like and hopelessness in members of the Santo Daime, an ayahuasca-using religion. Standard questionnaires were used to evaluate state-anxiety (STAI-state), trait-anxiety (STAI-trait), panic-like (ASI-R) and hopelessness (BHS) in participants that ingested ayahuasca for at least 10 consecutive years. The study was done in the Santo Daime church, where the questionnaires were administered 1 h after the ingestion of the brew, in a double-blind, placebo-controlled procedure. While under the acute effects of ayahuasca, participants scored lower on the scales for panic and hopelessness related states. Ayahuasca ingestion did not modify state- or trait-anxiety. The results are discussed in terms of the possible use of ayahuasca in alleviating signs of hopelessness and panic-like related symptoms.

Santos, R. G., Landeira-Fernandez, J., Strassman, R. J., Motta, V., & Cruz, A. P. M. (2007). Effects of ayahuasca on psychometric measures of anxiety, panic-like and hopelessness in Santo Daime members. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 112(3), 507-513. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2007.04.012
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No Difference in Brain Activation During Cognitive Performance Between Ecstasy (3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine) Users and Control Subjects: A [H215O]-Positron Emission Tomography Study

Abstract

The long-term use of the serotonin-releaser and uptake-inhibitor 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, “Ecstasy”) has been associated with memory impairments and increased liability to depressive mood and anxiety attacks. It is unclear, however, whether these psychologic deviations are reflected in alterations of the underlying neurophysiologic substrate. The authors compared mood and regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) profiles between regular polytoxic Ecstasy users and Ecstasy-naive controls. Brain activity as indexed by rCBF was measured during cognitive activation by an attentional task using positron emission tomography and [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][H2(15)O]. Mood was assessed by means of the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D) and the EWL Mood Rating Scale. Statistical parametric mapping revealed that brain activity did not differ between the two groups. Both groups also performed equally on the cognitive task requiring sustained attention. However, significantly higher levels of depressiveness as determined by the HAM-D and EWL scales were found in Ecstasy-using subjects. These data indicate that, despite differences in mood, polytoxic Ecstasy users do not differ from Ecstasy-naive controls in terms of local brain activity. Heightened depressiveness in the Ecstasy group was consistent with results from previous studies and could be related to serotonergic hypofunction resulting from repeated MDMA consumption. However, this study cannot exclude the possibility that the observed differences are preexisting rather than a result of Ecstasy use.

 

Gamma, A., Buck, A., Berthold, T., & Vollenweider, F. X. (2001). No difference in brain activation during cognitive performance between ecstasy (3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) users and control subjects: a [H215O]-positron emission tomography study. Journal of clinical psychopharmacology, 21(1), 66-71. http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/00004714-200102000-00012

 

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LSD-assisted psychotherapy in patients with terminal cancer

Abstract

The paper describes the results of a clinical study exploring the potential of a complex psychotherapeutic program utilizing psychedelic compounds to alleviate the emotional and physical suffering of cancer patients. A total of 60 cancer patients participated in this experimental study. In 44 of these patients, LSD (200-500 ug per os) was administered as an adjunct to psychotherapy; in 19 patients, a new psychedelic compound, dipropyltryptamine (DPT) was administered (60-105 mg i.m.). Three of these patients received both LSD and DPT administered on different sessions.

The therapeutic results were assessed by means of a rating scale reflecting the degree of the patients’ depression, psychological isolation, anxiety, difficulty in management, fear of death, and pain. The ratings were done by attending physicians, nurses, family members, LSD therapists and cotherapists, and independent raters. In addition, the amount of narcotics required in the management of the patient was measured before and after the psychedelic sessions.

Systematic rating was carried out in a group of 31 cancer patients treated by LSD. The comparison of the means of individual ratings from pre- to posttreatment showed significant improvement in all the measured parameters for most of the raters. There was a definite reduction of the narcotic medication; it did not, however, reach the level of statistical significance. The pre- to post-treatment comparison of the global indexes used as gross indicators of the degree of emotional and physical distress, indicated that approximately 29 % of the patients showed dramatic improvement, and another 41.9 % moderate improvement, with 22.6 % essentially unchanged. In 6.4 % of the patients, global indexes showed a decrement in the post therapy ratings.

Grof, S., Goodman, L. E., Richards, W. A., & Kurland, A. A. (1972). LSD-assisted psychotherapy in patients with terminal cancer. International pharmacopsychiatry, 8(3), 129-144.
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LSD-Assisted Psychotherapy in Patients with Terminal Cancer

Abstract

The paper describes the results of a clinical study exploring the potential of a complex psychotherapeutic program utilizing psychedilic compounds to alleviate the emotional and physical suffering of cancer patients. A total of 60 cancer patients participated in this experimental study. In 44 of these patients, LSD (200-500 μg per os) was administered as an adjunct to psychotherapy; in 19 patients, a new psychedelic compound, dipropyltryptamine (DPT) was administered (60-105 mg i.m.). Three of these patients received both LSD and DPT administered on different sessions. The therapeutic results were assessed by means of a rating scale reflecting the degree of the patients’ depression, psychological isolation, anxiety, difficulty in management, fear of death, and pain. The ratings were done by attending physicians, nurses, family members, LSD therapists and cotherapists, and independent raters. In addition, the amount of narcotics required in the management of the patient was measured before and after the psychedelic sessions. Systematic rating was carried out in a group of 31 cancer patients treated by LSD. The comparison of the means of individual ratings from pre to posttreatment showed significant improvement in all the measured parameters for most of the raters. There was a definite reduction of the narcotic medication; it did not, however, reach the level of statistical significance. The pre to posttreatment comparison of the global indexes used as gross indicators of the degree of emotional and physical distress, indicated that approximately 29% of the patients showed dramatic improvement, and another 41.9% moderate improvement, with 22.6% essentially unchanged. In 6.4% of the patients, global indexes showed a decrement in the posttherapy ratings.
Grof, S., Goodman, L. E., Richards, W. A., & Kurland, A. A. (1973). LSD-assisted psychotherapy in patients with terminal cancer. International pharmacopsychiatry8, 129-144., 10.1159/000467984
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LSD-assisted psychotherapy and the human encounter with death

Abstract

INTRODUCTION: My own experience with Maria convinced me that the living can do a great deal to make the passage easier for the dyingJ to raise the most purely physiological act of human existence to the level of consciousness and perhaps even of spirituality.

Aldous Huxley wrote these words after being with his first wife as she died of cancer in 1955. During her final hours, he employed a hypnotic technique to remind her of spontaneous peak experiences she had known during her life, thereby seeking to guide her toward similar states of consciousness as the death process occurred. In his novel/sland, he describes a similar scene during the death of his character Lakshmi. Also in this novel, he writes of the “mokshamedioine” that gives inhabitants of the island a mystical vision that frees them from the fear of death and enables them to live more fully during their everyday lives. To those who knew Aldous Huxley and have read his works (Huxley, 1963a,b), there is no doubt that, in Huxley’s mind, £cmokshamedieine” was a psychedelic oompound similar to mescaline, psilocybin, and LSD. The seriousness with which he envisaged this futuristic scene is well portrayed by his second wife, Laura) in her description of Huxley’s request for LSD a few hours before he himself died of cancer in 1963 (Huxley, 1968).

 Richards, W., Grof, S., Goodman, L., & Kurland, A. (1972). LSD-assisted psychotherapy and the human encounter with death. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 4(2), 121-150.

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21 March - Ketamine Discussion with Celia Morgan, Filip Tylš & Will Barone

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