Psychedelics News February 2020

This month brought news about microdosing, investments in psychedelics startups, and a very high macro-dose.

Psychedelics linked to persisting reductions in cannabis, opioid, and stimulant use

Source: PsyPost | By: Eric W. Dolan | Published: 3 Feb 2020

The article references this research that used survey data to observe that people who use psychedelics have lower use of other substances (but always remember, correlation does not equal causation).

“The researchers used online advertisements to recruit 444 adults who had overcome alcohol or drug addiction after using psychedelics.”

“Approximately 79% of participants met the DSM-5 criteria for severe substance abuse disorder prior to their psychedelic experience. But only about 27% met the criteria for substance abuse disorder after the experience.”

But it isn’t all good news. “[T]he researchers also found that 10% of the participants reported adverse effects, such as transient paranoia or anxiety.”

Also reported in The Growth Op.

Can microdosing psychedelics improve your relationship? Experts weigh in

Source: Mic | By: Melissa Pandika | Published: 5 Feb 2020

Does microdosing work? This sentence might give the best explanation. “Experts say it’s possible, but we don’t yet have enough rigorous research on it to say for sure.”

The placebo effect does seem to be an important factor. “It’s possible that expecting microdosing to benefit them might have influenced their experience of it, a phenomenon known as the placebo effect, and the subtleness of supposed benefits of microdosing makes them especially susceptible to it.”

Special Issue on Diversity, Equity, and Access in Psychedelic Medicine

Source: Chacruna| By: Monnica Williams & Beatriz Labate| Published: 6 Feb 2020

The article linked serves as a launch for the Journal of Psychedelic Studies (Special Issue). The main goal of the issue is to promote diversity and make psychedelics (therapy) more inclusive.

“This piece introduces a special issue with a focus on issues of diversity, equity, and accessibility in psychedelic medicine.”

You can find the articles here.

Field Trip Psychedelics Inc. Announces Closing of Oversubscribed Series A Financing

Source: press release | By: PR Newswire | Published 6 Feb 2020

“The funds [$8.5M] will be used to execute the initial stages of Field Trip’s strategic plan to build out the world’s first network of medical centres focused exclusively on psychedelic-enhanced psychotherapy.”

Wow, that is quite a lot of money and commitment to building out psychedelics centers. The company is also committed to ‘people, planet, profit’ and already seems to have three locations planned (Toronto, New York, Los Angeles). It does seem to be focussed on ketamine.

Terence Kelly appointed CEO of ATAI platform company Perception Neuroscience

Source: ATAI | By: staff | Published: 7 Feb 2020

ATAI keeps on making waves in the psychedelics space. Next to the headline, the article mentions more about the promising effects of Arketamine (R-enantiomer of ketamine) for their anti-depressant and anti-suicidal effects. In some ways, you can say that this area (with now already many clinics in the US offering ketamine therapies) is a bit further ahead than that of psilocybin.

UK Assessment Agency Rejects Spravato Ketamine Nasal Spray

Source: Psychedelic Review | By: Shane O’Connor | Published: 12 Feb 2020

Much news about ketamine (see two above), this time less positive as the UK doesn’t see the use of the Spravato (esketamine nasal spray). This is mainly based on price/cost-effectiveness.

Psychedelics on the Stock Exchange?

Source: DoubleBlind | By: Troy Farah | Published: 12 Feb 2020

“In the wake of the cannabis green rush, investors are eyeing psychedelics, while Canadian pharma company Mindmed aims to go public this March.”

The article even links back to here to argue that the industry could be worth more than 1 billion in some years. And also mentions Field Trip (see three articles above). In general, the investments might be good, but the short-term for-profit motives can also lead to bad incentives.

The growing push for medical use of psilocybin in Canada

Source: CTV News (Canada) | By: Avis Favaro, Elisabeth St. Philip, Christy Somos | Published: 15 Feb 2020

Psychotherapist and professor at the University of Victoria Bruce Tobin is lobbying the Canadian government to allow for the use of psilocybin with end-of-life distress for patients suffering from (terminal) cancer. The fight has been going on for at least 3 years and next month he will file a federal court challenge.

This is based partly on this paper, and the work in Canada is being done by Thera-Psil (Therapeutic Psilocybin For Canadians).

Also reported in EuroWeekly.

Psychedelics for systems change: could drugs help us save the planet?

Source: Open Democracy | By: Jules Peck | Published: 15 Feb

This more speculative article makes the link between psychedelics and the often reported effect that it makes people more open, social, nature-oriented, and possibly improve our world this way. It often quotes Matthew Johnson of Johns Hopkins University and is generally well studied, but also somewhat of a loose theory. The final paragraphs do a good job of stating that the renaissance of psychedelics (into mainstream culture) needs to be handled with care:

“It would be important that this new renaissance is not set back by another ‘Timothy Leary moment’ and these retreats would need to be undertaken in the most highly professional, ethical and responsible manner. Naturally, these retreats would for the time being need to take place in a country such as Holland where psychedelics are not illegal.” and “Such retreats would need to be science-based and record open-source outcomes in a way which helps move forward the science of psychedelics as well as the field of values change and system change.”

EntheogeniX Biosciences gets going

Source: Medium| By: ATAI | Published: 16 Feb 2020

This article gives a peek below the curtain of EntheogeniX, a joint venture of ATAI and Cyclica. It highlights their AI discover platform and the search for new/different ways of making psychedelics. The most laudable goal is that new modalities may drive down the costs and make it more accessible to people with mental health problems (and even those who are now screened out – e.g. with psychosis).

Business gets ready to trip: How psychedelic drugs may revolutionize mental health care

Source: Fortune (soft paywall) | By: Jeffrey M. O’Brien | Published: 17 Feb 2020

This is an in-depth dive into psychedelics and the investments pouring into it. The article starts with an interview with Tim Ferriss:

“I view the next five years as an absolutely golden window. There’s an opportunity to use relatively small amounts of money to have billions of dollars of impact and to affect millions of lives …” The impact (partly) refers to the large burden of mental health disorders, loss of productivity, and the relative lack of effectiveness of traditional methods to treat them (30% for first treatment of SSRIs for depression).

Do read the article get a good overview of the latest in research with psilocybin and MDMA.

The second person interviewed is Roland Griffiths: “Psilocybin and other psychedelics also produce neuroplasticity, which increases psychological flexibility and openness. This often leads to psychological insights.”

Then O’Brien continues to describe two (underground) trips he did with MDMA and psilocybin.

After that, we meet Rick Doblin of MAPS. “He’s hopeful that an MDMA product will be on the market in 2022.” and “Ultimately, he envisions tens of thousands of psychedelics clinics.”

Two other narratives are told, one from the more bottom-up way, the other from the business/pharmaceutical perspective. Again, highly recommended to read the whole thing.

(One final note: It seems that COMPASS tries to patent the production of psilocybin, but no a novel way, the way Albert Hoffman did it over 50 years ago)

Startle Testing with MDMA: Twenty-Eighth Participant Receives Experimental Treatment

Source: MAPS | By: staff | Published: 19 Feb 2020

A very short update from MAPS about the ongoing research on the startle response and MDMA. They are looking for more volunteers (monetary compensation is offered) and see the article for the contact information.

Why I Quit Microdosing LSD

Source: DoubleBlind | By: Erica Avey | Published: 19 Feb 2020

The article portrays Erica’s personal experience with microdosing (1P-)LSD and how it helped her. But over time she felt that a macro (high) dose might be more beneficial. An interesting personal reflection.

#ThankYouPlantMedicine

Published/Launched: 20 Feb 2020

On the 20th of February this year, thousands of people shared their experience with plant medicine. Although many anecdotes don’t make science, it does highlight how they have helped thousands overcome everything from eating disorders to OCD.

“This movement was born as a response to the stigma in society about the use of psychoactive plants and therapy-assisted psychedelics. We dream of a world where these substances are free from stigma and discrimination, for personal and collective healing. We are organizing a global wave of gratitude for February 20, 2020, calling on people to “come out” with their stories of healing and transformation on that day, using the hashtag #ThankYouPlantMedicine.”

Europe’s psychedelic science renaissance has started

Source: ICPR 2020 | By: staff | Published: 25 Feb 2020

This article gives an awesome overview of the research into psychedelics that is happening in Europe at this moment. Although the list isn’t exhaustive (only LSD, psilocybin, MDMA, and only ones that are registered at clinicaltrials.gov) it does paint a picture of what is ongoing in Europe.

This includes a study with 140! participants to study the neural signatures, behavioral and phenomenological expressions of self-related processes (with psilocybin and meditators). A comparison between LSD and psilocybin. The effect of SSRIs on the response to psilocybin. And the phase 3 clinical trials with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD.

A Woman Accidentally Took 550 Times The Normal LSD Dose, Case Report Details

Source: Science Alert | By: Peter Dockrill | Published: 25 Feb 2020

The news article, with the grabbing headline, is based on three case studies that are documented here.

“In the most remarkable case, a 46-year-old woman called CB, who had a history of using morphine to treat Lyme disease-related pain in her feet, accidentally snorted a 55 mg dose of pure LSD in powder form, thinking it was cocaine.”

After a very long trip, she did come back to earth in one piece and even had a somewhat enjoyable second part of the trip. Of course, this is not recommended but does show how relatively safe LSD is.

Also reported in Inverse.

Psychedelics-Drug Startup Raises $24 Million Ahead of IPO

Source: The Wall Street Journal (paywall) | By: Shalini Ramachandran | Published: 27 Feb 2020

“Mind Medicine Inc., a psychedelics-based medicine startup backed by Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary, closed a $24.2 million funding round ahead of plans to go public next week.”

The introduction says it all, MindMed is planning to go public on the NEO exchange (a small exchange in Canada) and has raised significant funds. Alas, their website and information doesn’t say much more than wanting to develop intellectual property and I guess make a profit.

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