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The Utility of Psychedelics in the Treatment of End-of-Life Emotional Suffering

This evening will review the history, scientific findings, and implications of psychedelic-generated mystical experience research in treating end-of-life suffering. The NYU clinical trial demonstrated the efficacy of a single psilocybin-generated mystical experience in helping individuals with cancer reduce emotional distress, enhance existential and psycho-spiritual well-being, and foster a greater acceptance of the dying process with less anxiety.

Psilocybin is a naturally occurring compound found in specific species of mushrooms. Subjective features of a mystical experience include unity, sacredness, transcendence, ineffability, and an enhanced awareness of positive emotions including that of love. The landmark findings of a rapid decrease in depression, anxiety, hopelessness, and demoralization, along with improvements in spiritual well-being, will be presented. 

We will discuss existential and psychological distress in palliative care along with a review of the phenomenology of mystical experience. Other implications for the study of psychedelics and mystical experience include the treatment of myriad mental health disorders and the advancement of our understanding of consciousness, meaning, and spirituality.

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Anthony P. Bossis, Ph.D.