A Cautionary Note on Psilocybin Therapy

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William S. Breitbart, MD

The controversial nature of [psilocybin] is garnering attention before [the NYU investigators’] work has been peer-reviewed, which is concerning. Could psilocybin therapy be a helpful anxiolytic in any patient? Yes, I suppose, but I’d like to see the data.

Is psilocybin an anxiolytic in cancer patients? One would have to compare cancer patients to another population to answer that question. The mechanism of anxiolytic effect would be difficult to tease out without a research methodology specifically designed to examine the mechanism of action and the mediating factors that lead to a specific outcome. This would typically require large experimental and comparison groups—hundreds of patients. ■

Disclosure: Dr. Breitbart reported no potential conflicts of interest.

Dr. Breitbart is Chair, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York.

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