EU to support psychedelic therapy for patients with progressive incurable disease

January 25, 2024

The research project, called PsyPal, will investigate whether the substance psilocybin can help alleviate psychological and existential problems in patients suffering from COPD, multiple sclerosis, ALS or atypical Parkinson's disease. The aim is to improve patients' quality of life by reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, which are common in palliative care patients. The researchers behind the PsyPal project are committed to upholding the highest ethical standards in clinical and research practice. Between 34% and 80% of people with the four incurable diseases included in the PsyPal project are affected by symptoms of depression and anxiety. "In Denmark, we already have a lot of experience with the administration of the psychedelic drug psilocybin.

For the first time, the European Union is funding a research collaboration on psychedelic-assisted therapy. The research project, called PsyPal, will investigate whether the substance psilocybin can help alleviate psychological and existential problems in patients suffering from COPD, multiple sclerosis, ALS or atypical Parkinson's disease.

The University of Copenhagen and Bispebjerg Hospital will be responsible for treatments of ALS patients.

"I am incredibly happy that we have received this EU grant. It is a completely different type of treatment that integrates medical and psychological approaches in new ways," says Dea Siggaard Stenbæk, Head of the University of Copenhagen Clinic for Psychedelic Research.

Could improve quality of life

About the PsyPal project

PsyPal is the first clinical research project to investigate the safety and effects of psilocybin on the mental health of people suffering from palliative illnesses other than cancer.

The project combines psychotherapy with the use of the psychedelic drug psilocybin. The aim is to improve patients' quality of life by reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, which are common in palliative care patients.

The researchers behind the PsyPal project are committed to upholding the highest ethical standards in clinical and research practice. Furthermore, the research team will comply with all requirements and recommendations from ethics committees and regulatory authorities.

From the beginning of 2024, more than a hundred patients with the four incurable diseases will be treated at various research clinics in Europe.

Participants will undergo two therapy sessions where they will receive either psilocybin – the active ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms – or a placebo.

Previous pilot studies have shown that treatment with psilocybin can significantly reduce depression and anxiety in people living with a life-threatening cancer diagnosis. In some cases, there have been sustained improvements in patients' mental health.

"Our most vulnerable patients need us to keep exploring new treatment options that can improve their quality of life. It is therefore with great enthusiasm that we are now preparing the study," says Dea Siggaard Stenbæk.

Psychedelic experiences in a safe environment

Having a life-threatening or incurable illness will often significantly impair one's physical, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being. 

Between 34% and 80% of people with the four incurable diseases included in the PsyPal project are affected by symptoms of depression and anxiety.

In the project, researchers use psilocybin in a safe environment, along with professional psychotherapeutic support. It is an approach that not only addresses symptoms of depression and anxiety but will also focus on existential aspects and the overall quality of life of palliative patients, explains Dea Siggaard Stenbæk.

"In Denmark, we already have a lot of experience with the administration of the psychedelic drug psilocybin. I am sure that this experience will benefit this study," she concludes.

PsyPal is funded by Horizon Europe, the EU's main funding programme for research and innovation. The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the EU or the granting authority.

The source of this news is from University of Copenhagen

Popular in Research

1

Feb 15, 2024

Fifth cohort of Hansen Scholars join the University of Melbourne

2

Feb 5, 2024

New Prostate Cancer Report Card keeps treatment options simple to understand

3

Feb 5, 2024

Innovative urban living concept tackles housing woes and offers socially connected solutions

4

Feb 6, 2024

New study aims to ease chronic pain for people with Parkinson’s

5

Feb 7, 2024

Effort to cure corneal blindness globally welcomes $35 million support

Roundup of Key Statements

Oct 14, 2023

New path facilitates campus access for students

Feb 2, 2023