Europe is funding psychedelic treatment for people in palliative care to see if it helps them deal with the psychological distress of their conditions.
Work starts Wednesday on a clinical trial to study the effects of psilocybin — aka magic mushrooms — on patients with four progressive diseases: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and atypical Parkinson’s disease.
It’s the first time the EU has fully funded a study of a psychedelic, awarding more than €6.5 million through the EU’s Horizon Europe program.
And while previous studies have shown promise in hard-to-treat depression as well as people coping with a terminal cancer diagnosis, this would be the first in a wider patient cohort.
The trial, which is coordinated by the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG), in the Netherlands, will see around 100 patients treated in four different sites in the Netherlands, Portugal, Czech Republic and Denmark.
Participants will have several sessions with therapists, who will also take into account their specific medical issues.
Unlike other studies, this trial will give patients two sessions with psilocybin; the first a lower dose to become accustomed to the experience. Some participants will receive a placebo.
Lead investigator Robert Schoevers, a psychiatrist from UMCG, says that one of the major questions in the field of research is how many psychedelic trips are needed for treatment to be effective.
“Is this a sort of one-time fix, and then you go on with psychotherapy? We need to explore what is needed,” he said.
The study protocol is being drawn up this year with regulators and health technology assessment bodies. The trial will begin in January 2025 with results expected in 2027.