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First Research on Psychedelics for Incurable Illnesses funded by the EU

Get ready for some exciting news in palliative care! The European Union is investing over €6.5 million in a groundbreaking study called PsyPal. This is a big deal because it's the first time the EU is diving into the world of psychedelic-assisted therapy with a multi-site clinical study. Led by the University Medical Center Groningen and HumanKindLabs, PayPal aims to explore how psilocybin therapy can help people dealing with tough, incurable illnesses.

What is PsyPal all about?

The PsyPal study, set to commence in early 2024, targets over one hundred patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), multiple sclerosis (MS), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and atypical Parkinson’s disease (APD). This innovative clinical trial goes beyond oncology to examine the safety and effects of psilocybin therapy in non-oncology palliative care patients.

Who is behind the funding and collaboration?

Horizon Europe, the EU's research and innovation funding program, is backing this cool collaboration. The team includes 19 organizations from 9 different countries, all experts in psychiatry, palliative care, and psychology. They're making sure everything follows the rules laid out by Horizon Europe to keep things ethical.

What are the comments of psychiatrists on how mushrooms can help with psychological distress?

When consuming magic mushrooms, individuals often undergo what medical professionals refer to as a 'psychedelic experience,' as explained by Albino Maia, the psychiatrist overseeing the Portuguese segment of PsyPal, in an interview with Euronews.

A key aspect of such an episode is a 'certain loss of perception of the boundaries between oneself and the surroundings, sometimes termed 'ego dissolution.'

This can lead to a sensation of being interconnected with objects or other individuals,' he elaborated. Additionally, individuals may experience altered perceptions, including visual hallucinations. He noted that a few decades ago, outside clinical trials, individuals with severe physical illnesses, depression, anxiety, or substance use disorders reported emotional improvements following a psychedelic experience.

'They underwent an experience that provided them with a new perspective on the world, and they were transformed as a result,' he remarked. This sparked interest in the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.

As a result, researchers conducted various studies, particularly on patients with terminal cancer, which yielded positive outcomes. These findings led to the current EU-funded clinical trial, which aims to explore the potential of psychedelics in palliative care beyond the context of oncology, Maia explained.

What will clinical trials look like?

Right now, the researchers are getting ready. They are assembling all available scientific and human resources and making sure all protocols are authorized by the organizations that oversee clinical trials.

The patients will take the psilocybin pill twice during the two-year trial, which is scheduled to begin in early 2025. The dosage is increased to what is believed to be the therapeutic dose after starting at a lower one.

An identical placebo will be administered to the control group in place of the psilocybin pill. During the trial, psychotherapy will be provided to all patients. Results are anticipated in 2027.

Vivien Freeflow

Vivien Freeflow · 2/20/2024

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Vivien Freeflow

Vivien Freeflow

Freelance Content Writer

Vivien is a freelance health writer and editor covering the mental, physical, and social aspects of healthy living.