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Acute and Sustained Reductions in Loss of Meaning and Suicidal Ideation Following Psilocybin-Assisted Psychotherapy for Psychiatric and Existential Distress in Life-Threatening Cancer

Ross, Stephen; Agin-Liebes, Gabrielle; Lo, Sharon; Zeifman, Richard J; Ghazal, Leila; Benville, Julia; Franco Corso, Silvia; Bjerre Real, Christian; Guss, Jeffrey; Bossis, Anthony; Mennenga, Sarah E
People with advanced cancer are at heightened risk of desire for hastened death (DHD), suicidal ideation (SI), and completed suicide. Loss of Meaning (LoM), a component of demoralization, can be elevated by a cancer diagnosis and predicts DHD and SI in this population. We completed a randomized controlled trial in which psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy (PAP) produced rapid and sustained improvements in depression, demoralization, and hopelessness in people with cancer. Converging epidemiologic and clinical trial findings suggests a potential antisuicidal effect of this treatment. To probe our hypothesis that PAP relieves SI through its beneficial impacts on depression and demoralization (LoM in particular), we performed secondary analyses assessing within- and between-group differences with regard to LoM and an SI composite score. Among participants with elevated SI at baseline, PAP was associated with within-group reductions in SI that were apparent as early as 8 h and persisted for 6.5 months postdosing. PAP also produced large reductions in LoM from baseline that were apparent 2 weeks after treatment and remained significant and robust at the 6.5 month and 3.2 and 4.5 year follow-ups. Exploratory analyses support our hypothesis and suggest that PAP may be an effective antisuicidal intervention following a cancer diagnosis due to its positive impact on hopelessness and demoralization and its effects on meaning-making in particular. These preliminary results implicate psilocybin treatment as a potentially effective alternative to existing antidepressant medications in patients with cancer that are also suicidal, and warrant further investigation in participants with elevated levels of depression and suicidality.
PMID: 33860185
ISSN: 2575-9108
CID: 4846332

Psilocybin, spirituality, and palliative care: Research and implications

Bossis, Anthony P.
ISSN: 1076-2809
CID: 4832662

Utility of psychedelics in the treatment of psycho-spiritual and existential distress in palliative care: A Promising new paradigm

Chapter by: Bossis, AP
in: Handbook of medical hallucinogens by Grob, Charles S; Grigsby, Jim (Eds)
New York, NY : The Guilford Press, [2021]
pp. 441-473
ISBN: 1462545440
CID: 4795352

Defining the Roles and Research Priorities for Psychedelic-Assisted Therapies in Patients with Serious Illness: Expert Clinicians' and Investigators' Perspectives

Beaussant, Yvan; Sanders, Justin; Sager, Zachary; Tulsky, James A; Braun, Ilana M; Blinderman, Craig D; Bossis, Anthony P; Byock, Ira
PMID: 32233936
ISSN: 1557-7740
CID: 4371432

Long-term follow-up of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for psychiatric and existential distress in patients with life-threatening cancer

Agin-Liebes, Gabrielle I; Malone, Tara; Yalch, Matthew M; Mennenga, Sarah E; Ponté, K Linnae; Guss, Jeffrey; Bossis, Anthony P; Grigsby, Jim; Fischer, Stacy; Ross, Stephen
BACKGROUND/UNASSIGNED:A recently published randomized controlled trial compared single-dose psilocybin with single-dose niacin in conjunction with psychotherapy in participants with cancer-related psychiatric distress. Results suggested that psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy facilitated improvements in psychiatric and existential distress, quality of life, and spiritual well-being up to seven weeks prior to the crossover. At the 6.5-month follow-up, after the crossover, 60-80% of participants continued to meet criteria for clinically significant antidepressant or anxiolytic responses. METHODS/UNASSIGNED:The present study is a long-term within-subjects follow-up analysis of self-reported symptomatology involving a subset of participants that completed the parent trial. All 16 participants who were still alive were contacted, and 15 participants agreed to participate at an average of 3.2 and 4.5 years following psilocybin administration. RESULTS/UNASSIGNED:Reductions in anxiety, depression, hopelessness, demoralization, and death anxiety were sustained at the first and second follow-ups. Within-group effect sizes were large. At the second (4.5 year) follow-up approximately 60-80% of participants met criteria for clinically significant antidepressant or anxiolytic responses. Participants overwhelmingly (71-100%) attributed positive life changes to the psilocybin-assisted therapy experience and rated it among the most personally meaningful and spiritually significant experiences of their lives. CONCLUSION/UNASSIGNED:These findings suggest that psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy holds promise in promoting long-term relief from cancer-related psychiatric distress. Limited conclusions, however, can be drawn regarding the efficacy of this therapy due to the crossover design of the parent study. Nonetheless, the present study adds to the emerging literature base suggesting that psilocybin-facilitated therapy may enhance the psychological, emotional, and spiritual well-being of patients with life-threatening cancer.
PMID: 31916890
ISSN: 1461-7285
CID: 4257552

Can expressed interpersonal distress reverse the effects of early interpersonal adversity on somatoform/centralized pain? on neuropsychophysiologic mechanisms of symptom formation and implications for treatment [Meeting Abstract]

Landa, A; Bossis, A; Boylan, L; Hartz, A; Dall'Aglio, J; Wong, P
Background: Research based Developmental Theory of Somatoform/Centralized Pain (S/CP) (Landa et al., 2012) suggests that early interpersonal adversity(EIA) interacts with multigenerational factors leading to neural predisposition to S/CP. Interpersonal affect regulation between infant and caregiver is crucial for optimal maturation of nervous system; EIA may impede development of capacities for emotion-somatic sensation differentiation, awareness, expression and regulation of emotions, leading to experiencing distress in somaticaly. These mechanisms of symptom formation suggest that psychotherapies targeting development of these capacities can help treat S/CP; studies show that psychotherapies that focus on emotion expression and working through interpersonal traumas can alleviate S/CP. However, the exact neurophysiologic mechanisms underlying these effects are not yet fully understood. In our previous study, 90% of S/CP patients (vs 10% of controls) presented with the Unmet Need for Closeness with Others (UNCO) as main representation of relationships. We now present the data on autonomic regulation (HRV) and verbally expressed emotions/alexithymia during patient's interviews on interpersonal relationships.
Method(s): Twenty patients with S/CP from Pain, Neurology, and Primary Care clinics, and 20 age-, sex-, ethnicity-, and level of education-matched healthy controls completed the Relationship Anecdotes Paradigm (RAP)-a semi-structured interview coded for representations of relationships (Core Conflictual Relationship Theme method). HRV was measured continuously during RAP. RAP narratives were coded for Verbally Expressed Emotion using coding method adapted from Levels of Emotional Awareness Scale.
Result(s): S/CP patients had higher levels of UNCO and RAP alexithymia, and significant increase in HRV during RAP vs controls. Relationship between these dimensions and history of interpersonal traumas will be explored.
Discussion(s): Talking about interpersonal relationships and expressing UNCO to others was associated with HRV increase among S/CP patients, which has direct implications for psychophysiologic mechanisms underlying change in psychotherapeutic interventions for S/CP, therefore helping reverse effects of EIA suggested by the Developmental Theory of S/CP. Implications for diagnosis and treatment of S/CP will be discussed
ISSN: 1534-7796
CID: 3904702

Psychedelic-Assisted Therapies-Palliative Care Clinical & Research Priorities (TH317) [Meeting Abstract]

Byock, I; Bossis, A; Blinderman, C
Objectives: *Identify types of suffering of psychological, emotional, social, spiritual, or existential nature that are potential indications for supervised therapy involving psychedelic medications, as well as important contraindications to this class of drugs.*Critically evaluate published findings from the expanding evidence base of clinical research into psychedelic-assisted treatment of patients with depression, anxiety, demoralization, and existential and spiritual suffering. People with advanced medical illness often experience anxiety, feelings of hopelessness and loss of meaning and value of life. Some conclude that their life is not worth living and desire to hasten their deaths. Currently available treatments for depression, anxiety, and spiritual distress often fail to alleviate suffering among people who are seriously ill. Research involving psilocybin and related compounds have shown significant benefit suggesting that this class of drugs may offer therapeutic potential in treating persistent, non-physical suffering. During the 2018 AAHPM-HPNA Assembly Meeting a concurrent session on psychedelic therapy drew approximately 600 participants, indicating substantial interest among palliative care providers in the research, cautions, and potential clinical application of these medications. The 2019 session will build on this interest and the content of the previous session to begin defining priorities for research and clinical use of psychedelics within palliative care practice. Recent and ongoing clinical studies pertaining to psychedelic-assisted therapies in care of seriously ill patients will be reviewed. Session faculty will present results of key informant interviews conducted with palliative care clinicians and researchers regarding their priorities for future studies and therapeutic application of these medications. Survey items will include considerations of: a) patient selection and screening, b) frequency and duration of treatment sessions with specific drugs, c) selection of medications (entheogens and empathogens) in treating syndromes of depression, anxiety, demoralization and PTSD, d) necessary levels of supervision, e) safety and therapeutic influence of different settings. These results will inform discussion among session participants. A distillation of this interactive discussion will inform priorities for a developing Special Interest Group on Psychedelic Therapies.
ISSN: 1873-6513
CID: 3634762

Individual Experiences in Four Cancer Patients Following Psilocybin-Assisted Psychotherapy

Malone, Tara C; Mennenga, Sarah E; Guss, Jeffrey; Podrebarac, Samantha K; Owens, Lindsey T; Bossis, Anthony P; Belser, Alexander B; Agin-Liebes, Gabrielle; Bogenschutz, Michael P; Ross, Stephen
A growing body of evidence shows that existential and spiritual well-being in cancer patients is associated with better medical outcomes, improved quality of life, and serves as a buffer against depression, hopelessness, and desire for hastened death. Historical and recent research suggests a role for psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy in treating cancer-related anxiety and depression. A double-blind controlled trial was performed, where 29 patients with cancer-related anxiety and depression were randomly assigned to treatment with single-dose psilocybin (0.3 mg/kg) or niacin in conjunction with psychotherapy. Previously published results of this trial demonstrated that, in conjunction with psychotherapy, moderate-dose psilocybin produced rapid, robust, and enduring anxiolytic, and anti-depressant effects. Here, we illustrate unique clinical courses described by four participants using quantitative measures of acute and persisting effects of psilocybin, anxiety, depression, quality of life, and spiritual well-being, as well as qualitative interviews, written narratives, and clinician notes. Although the content of each psilocybin-assisted experience was unique to each participant, several thematic similarities and differences across the various sessions stood out. These four participants' personal narratives extended beyond the cancer diagnosis itself, frequently revolving around themes of self-compassion and love, acceptance of death, and memories of past trauma, though the specific details or narrative content differ substantially. The results presented here demonstrate the personalized nature of the subjective experiences elicited through treatment with psilocybin, particularly with respect to the spiritual and/or psychological needs of each patient.
PMID: 29666578
ISSN: 1663-9812
CID: 3039602

Cancer at the Dinner Table: Experiences of Psilocybin-Assisted Psychotherapy for the Treatment of Cancer-Related Distress

Swift, Thomas C; Belser, Alexander B; Agin-Liebes, Gabrielle; Devenot, Nese; Terrana, Sara; Friedman, Harris L; Guss, Jeffrey; Bossis, Anthony P; Ross, Stephen
Recent randomized controlled trials of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for patients with cancer suggest that this treatment results in large-magnitude reductions in anxiety and depression as well as improvements in attitudes toward disease progression and death, quality of life, and spirituality. To better understand these findings, we sought to identify psychological mechanisms of action using qualitative methods to study patient experiences in psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 13 adult participants with clinically elevated anxiety associated with a cancer diagnosis who received a single dose of psilocybin under close clinical supervision. Transcribed interviews were analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis, which resulted in 10 themes, focused specifically on cancer, death and dying, and healing narratives. Participants spoke to the anxiety and trauma related to cancer, and perceived lack of available emotional support. Participants described the immersive and distressing effects of the psilocybin session, which led to reconciliations with death, an acknowledgment of cancer's place in life, and emotional uncoupling from cancer. Participants made spiritual or religious interpretations of their experience, and the psilocybin therapy helped facilitate a felt reconnection to life, a reclaiming of presence, and greater confidence in the face of cancer recurrence. Implications for theory and clinical treatment are discussed.
ISSN: 1552-650x
CID: 2676992

Special series on psychedelics. Pt. 2

Bossis, Anthony P; Grob, Charlie S
[S.l.] : Sage, 2017
CID: 4795412