logoThe People's Perspective on Medicine

Do Psychological Benefits from Psilocybin Last?

Nearly five years after a psychedelic experience designed to be therapeutic, most participants report they still are getting benefits from psilocybin.
Psilocybe semilanceata macro close up

Several years ago, scientists at New York University Langone Medical Center and Johns Hopkins University reported on an extraordinary pilot study. Both research groups reported that cancer patients could get dramatic relief from depression and anxiety related to their prognosis from taking psilocybin in a clinical setting (Journal of Psychopharmacology, Dec. 2016). These benefits from psilocybin were unexpectedly strong.

How Well Do Psychological Benefits from Psilocybin Last?

Now, scientists from New York University Langone Medical Center have published a follow-up after four and half years (Journal of Psychopharmacology, Feb. 2020). They found that the benefits from psilocybin therapy have stuck with 60 to 80 percent of the surviving participants. (The numbers are small; of the original 29, 16 are still alive and 15 agreed to answer the investigators’ questions.)

The volunteers reported feeling less afraid of dying and less hopeless than those who took placebo. They were overwhelmingly positive about their psilocybin-assisted therapy and rated it as a personally meaningful and spiritually significant experience.

Do Not Try This at Home!

The researchers warn that people should not adopt a do-it-yourself stance on magic mushrooms, however. They suggest that the therapeutic environment was undoubtedly important for the benefits from psilocybin. In sum, that could be very difficult to duplicate without trained therapists ready to guide people through a potentially harrowing experience.

To learn more about this research, you may wish to listen to our interview with Dr. Jeffrey Guss, a member of the original NYU team. It is Show 1084: Psilocybin, Cancer and Spiritual Awakening.

Rate this article
4.3- 35 ratings
About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
Show 1084: Psilocybin, Cancer & Spiritual Awakening
Free - $6.49

Researchers found that a session with psilocybin in a therapeutic setting helped demoralized cancer patients find meaning in life again.

Show 1084: Psilocybin, Cancer & Spiritual Awakening
  • Ross S et al, "Rapid and sustained symptom reduction following psilocybin treatment for anxiety and depression in patients with life-threatening cancer: A randomized controlled trial." Journal of Psychopharmacology, Dec. 1, 2016. DOI: 10.1177/0269881116675512
  • Agin-Liebes GI et al, " Long-term follow-up of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for psychiatric and existential distress in patients with life-threatening cancer." Journal of Psychopharmacology, Feb. 2020. https://doi.org/10.1177/0269881119897615
Join over 150,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

We're empowering you to make wise decisions about your own health, by providing you with essential health information about both medical and alternative treatment options.

Showing 6 comments
Add your comment

Wait, if almost half who participated in the study are dead, how do we know that they all didn’t commit suicide, and 0% of them got any/enough benefit from the magic mushrooms? That would change the results significantly.

I used mushrooms as a teenager. Made us very happy.

Just waiting for this treatment to become legal and available.

I wonder how many are still alive in this study directly because of the mushrooms, based on how it made them feel?
Kudos to those who stepped outside the box for a study/trial like this. Where did you say to go pick?

I would love to try this technique in a professional setting since I have “panic attacks” and episodic depression. However the trials all want people under 65,and I’m 74. Any suggestions? I’m in Chicago and don’t see anything in my area. Thanks.

I do wish psilocybin was available to the general public, within a therapeutic environment of course. From what I’ve read, the benefits are life-changing.

* Be nice, and don't over share. View comment policy^