Psilocybin, Addiction, and End of Life

Steve Ross, MD

Abstract: Since 2008, the NYU Psychedelic Research Group (established in 2006) has administered a moderate dose of psilocybin to 16 participants in a double-blind placebo-controlled trial of the efficacy of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy in individuals with advanced cancer and psychosocial distress. We hypothesize that psilocybin administration in combination with existentially oriented psychotherapy can diminish psychological and spiritual distress in individuals with advanced cancer. Dr. Ross will present preliminary clinical observations and data from our study, in which a majority of patients have experienced acute and sustained reductions in death anxiety, existential distress, and depression; as well as increases in spiritual states and practices, and improved family system functioning. Recent groundbreaking research at Johns Hopkins has also demonstrated that psilocybin can occasion acute and enduring changes in the personality domain of openness. These findings have prompted several groups to explore using psilocybin-assisted psychotherapies to treat addictive disorders, which will also be discussed.

Stephen Ross, M.D., is Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Child & Adolescent Psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine and Associate Professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Radiology, and Medicine at the NYU College of Dentistry. He directs the Division of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse and the Opioid Overdose Prevention Program at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York City. He is Director of Addiction Psychiatry at NYU Tisch Hospital and Director of the NYU Addiction Psychiatry Fellowship. He is certified in General and Addiction Psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN) and in Addiction Medicine by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). Dr. Ross has received a dozen local and national teaching awards related to education of medical students, psychiatry residents, and post-graduate fellows. Dr. Ross is an expert on the therapeutic application of serotonergic hallucinogens to treat psychiatric and addictive spectrum illnesses. He directs the NYU Psychedelic Research Group and is Principal Investigator of the NYU Psilocybin Cancer Project. Dr. Ross receives his research funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Heffter Research Institute.

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