Serotonergic hallucinogens/psychedelics could be promising treatments for depressive and anxiety disorders in end-stage cancer

BMC Psychiatry. 2019 Oct 28;19(1):321. doi: 10.1186/s12888-019-2288-z.


In a recent issue of the BMC Psychiatry, the evidence of effectiveness of treatments for psychiatric conditions in end-stage cancer patients was reviewed (Johnson, 2018). The review was comprehensive, and included traditional and non-traditional/alternative treatments, including herbal medicines and spirituality. However, evidence showing that classic or serotonergic hallucinogens/psychedelics such as psilocybin and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) could be effective treatments for depressive and anxiety disorders in end-stage cancer was not included. In this commentary, we expand the information available on the original article by briefly reviewing data from recent placebo-controlled, double-blind, cross-over clinical trials showing evidence that administration of single (or few) doses of LSD and psilocybin was associated with rapid and sustained reductions in depressive and anxiety symptoms in patients with end-stage cancer and other life-threatening diseases (e.g., Bechterew's disease, Parkinson's disease, Celiac disease). Since these substances seem to produce rapid and sustained therapeutic effects with single (or few) doses and well tolerated, large-scale, prospective, multi-site studies of end-stage cancer and classical/serotonergic hallucinogens/psychedelics should be performed to improve our understanding of the therapeutic potentials of these drugs and their use on clinical practice.

Keywords: Anxiety; Depression; End-stage cancer care; Hallucinogens; Lysergic acid diethylamide; Psilocybin; Psychedelics; Psychiatry; Psycho-oncology.

Publication types

  • Letter
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Hallucinogens*
  • Humans
  • Needs Assessment
  • Neoplasms*
  • Prospective Studies


  • Hallucinogens