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Medical or Therapeutic Psychedelics Industry in 2023

When psychedelic drugs were first introduced by the scientific community as an alternative treatment for several mental illnesses, the general populace around the world viewed them apprehensively. In fact, many doctors within the scientific community were skeptical about the efficacy and ethical issues that surrounded the therapeutic use of psychedelic drugs. But times are changing now. The use of psychedelic drugs as a vital therapeutic medicine to manage mental health disorders is gradually gaining public acceptance. Once vilified and scorned, people are now becoming more open to treatments that use these drugs. Psychedelics like ketamine, LSD, and psilocybin are now being used to treat anxiety, depression, and PTSD in patients who have failed to respond to standard therapies.

Recent developments in the therapeutic psychedelic industry

COMPASS Pathways, a mental health care company, released a report in 2021 about the largest-ever clinical study on the effects of psilocybin. The study involved 233 people, and it was discovered that one dose of the drug, when combined with psychological help, significantly lowered the symptoms of depressive disorders. This study was a Phase 2 clinical trial, and there are more than 80 Phase 2 psychedelic drug trials now underway worldwide. The study on MDMA for the treatment of PTSD has reached Phase 3.

COMPASS Pathways anticipates receiving regulatory approval by 2023 in America and by 2024 in Europe. This will significantly improve the conditions of research and yield more positive results in the field of psychedelic medicine.

An increasing number of investors are also attempting to build enterprises with promising scientific and financial prospects in the psychedelic drug industry. This has placed the current market value of developers at around 10 billion USD. Experts believe that the value of the psychedelic healthcare sector will cross 2.4 billion USD by 2026. Studies also indicate that by 2027, the psychedelic drug industry will see a growth of 16.3%. These forecasts were centered on the efficacy of ketamine, MDMA, and psilocybin-assisted therapies, where the drugs are either currently being used in therapy or are almost ready for approval.

Growth of medical psychedelics

Many US cities and states are becoming interested in decriminalizing or legalizing psychedelic drugs like LSD, MDMA, and psilocybin. Oregon became the first state to take steps toward the legalization of the medical use of such drugs when it passed Oregon Ballot Measure 109 in 2020. Now the FDA is also expressing its interest in giving approval to several psychedelic medications. The FDA recognized psilocybin’s potential as a mental health support and safety record in 2019, naming it a “breakthrough therapy.” All this has become possible due to the mounting clinical evidence showing significant improvements in the mental health of people upon using psychedelic drugs compared to other conventional forms of therapy.

A lot of interest from the side of investors is due to the cost factor associated with the conventional treatment methods for the two most common mental health issues, namely depression and anxiety. According to the United Nations Secretary-General, the treatment of these two diseases costs around 1 trillion USD, which is borne by the world economy. But the increased efficiency of psychedelic drugs is expected to decrease this amount significantly, reducing the economic burden on economies worldwide.

Elliot Marseille, Director of GIPSE, gave a presentation at a psychedelic conference in New York. In his presentation, he discussed studies that indicated that over the next 10 years, treatments using psychedelic drugs may save insurers between $39.5 million and $46.7 million USD for every 1,000 patients.

All these monetary benefits will attract more investors into the psychedelic drug sector, which will further aid the exponential growth of the industry in the coming few years.

MDMA, psylobycin, and ketamine

Since the FDA recognized MDMA-assisted therapies as “breakthrough therapies,” the drug is now available for the treatment of patients. Revenue increases from therapist training and therapy have been predicted to be around $7 billion USD between 2023 and 2029. Similarly, ketamine-assisted treatment is predicted to rule the psychedelic healthcare industry until 2025.

David Wood, the general counsel at Psygen Industries Inc., a psychedelic pharmaceutical manufacturer in Calgary, Canada, is optimistic about the bright future of the psychedelic drug industry. He believes that when it becomes legal in North America to prescribe MDMA for medical purposes, the healthcare industry, especially mental health care, will be revolutionized. He believes that this is all set to happen by 2023 or 2024. Furthermore, he also expressed his optimism that the acceptance of such therapies will also skyrocket. This will lead to a new era in the history of medical science.

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Psychedelics and Childhood Trauma

It is quite common and natural for kids to get exposed to some adverse events as they grow up. Some obvious ones include natural calamities, minor accidents, or the deaths of pets or loved ones. But sometimes certain severe traumatic events can happen, like sexual abuse or parental neglect, that can affect the child’s sense of well-being and safety. For some kids, something like experiencing a vehicle accident or hearing their parents argue frequently can be traumatizing. Not all trauma can be considered the same. Something that feels traumatic for one child may feel completely normal or easily addressed for another kid. This makes addressing childhood trauma a very delicate and critical issue.

Some scenarios that can cause childhood trauma include:

  • Bullying or cyberbullying
  • Accidents
  • Instability or disorder at home
  • Physical neglect or abuse
  • Emotional neglect or abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Separation from caregivers
  • Loss of loved ones
  • Serious and/or sudden health issues
  • Violence at school, home, or in their neighborhood
  • Poverty-related stress
  • Terrorism and war

PTSD and childhood trauma

Traumatic events in childhood can elicit a variety of reactions. For some, it can cause PTSD, but it is crucial to emphasize that not all traumatic experiences ultimately result in PTSD. A person’s likelihood of developing PTSD is significantly influenced by the length and perceived intensity of the said trauma. It is also influenced by other protective factors, like the presence of supportive and safe environments.

However, it is important to note that any individual who has suffered trauma can develop PTSD. It can be either a single significant event or a sequence of traumatic incidents, and both can have severe ramifications throughout adulthood.

Psychedelics and treatment of childhood trauma

With the introduction of psychedelics into the field of psychiatry, numerous studies have been conducted into the efficacy of psychedelic drugs in the treatment of psychiatric disorders. The positive effects of these drugs in treating individuals with severe mental health issues like anxiety and depression are widely discussed and acknowledged. This has paved the way for conducting studies that examine the relationship between the treatment of childhood trauma and psychedelic drugs.

Psychedelic drugs are already considered an effective healing method for PTSD patients. Now, this is being extrapolated by researchers to understand how they could help heal childhood trauma using psychedelics.

According to a study published in the journal Chronic Stress, adults who have experienced maltreatment in their childhood have lower levels of guilt and more complicated trauma symptoms when psychedelics are used in therapy. The study, conducted by C. J. Healy, Kellie Ann Lee, and Wendy D’Andrea, surveyed 166 people who had experienced some form of maltreatment during their childhood years. They were asked to answer a variety of in-depth questions that examined several variables, including:

  • measures of the severity and exposure of maltreatment
  • history of deliberate medicinal psychedelic use
  • internalized shame
  • any PTSD symptoms

About one-third of the respondents had experimented with some form of a psychedelic drug, including MDMA, LSD, and psilocybin, to address childhood trauma in a curative setting. These same individuals also reported considerably reduced levels of guilt, shame, suicidal thoughts, and similar other signs of complicated trauma. This clearly indicated that psychedelics can be used as a form of alternative treatment for childhood trauma.

Why is childhood trauma serious?

According to physicians, childhood trauma causes more long-term damage to the psyche and development of the person than it causes severe pain at the time it is inflicted. It can affect the way a child interprets the world around them and their place in it. It can also create feelings of intense shame. This is caused by the inability of the child to accept themselves as they are due to a distorted and negative self-perception. It can also lead to numerous other serious issues like depression, addiction, and even suicidal ideation or attempts.

Reasons for the effectiveness of psychedelic drugs

Psychedelic drugs help an individual temporarily lose their subjective personal character or identity. This is referred to as “ego death.” This makes the vast majority of individuals who use psychedelic drugs therapeutically feel happier. They even feel better and more confident about themselves. This makes them more open to new approaches and techniques for examining novel strategies for overcoming past trauma. In many cases, psychedelic drugs give these people hope and the desire to alter their future. It also gives them the courage to get past the traumatic events of their childhood and build a life not impacted by them.

While new studies are certainly promising, more research is needed to use psychedelic drugs to treat childhood trauma at its root.

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Colorado Legalizes “Magic Mushrooms” a.k.a. Psilocybin and Psilocin

After Oregon, Colorado is the second state to legalize the medicinal use of psilocybin and psilocin – the psychedelic compounds found in magic mushrooms. Medicinal consumption of magic mushrooms is now legal in Colorado for adults aged 21 and above. Therapeutic use of psychedelic mushrooms will be provided in state-regulated centers under the guidance of licensed facilitators. Personal consumption of magic mushrooms is also legal under the new legislation, but it’s banned in schools, public spaces, and while driving. Retail sales are also banned as of now.

Therapeutic benefits of magic mushrooms

There has been considerable research on the medicinal benefits of magic mushrooms over the past few years. Dr. Michael Bogenschutz of the NYU Langone Center carried out the largest controlled trial of magic mushroom use to reduce alcohol use disorder. The experiment revealed that the combined effect of psychotherapy and psilocybin pills helped people suffering from alcoholism reduce drinking for up to 8 months. This was the largest controlled, randomized study of its kind, and supplemented the findings of previous research.

Magic mushrooms have become more popular in recent years, for both medicinal and recreational use. While it is generally regarded as a safe psychedelic, experts still warn against the unsupervised use of psilocybin and psilocin.

A large number of voters show up to cast their opinion

More than 2.2 million people voted in the ballot measure, where 52% voted in favor of legalizing magic mushrooms. Around 93% of the total expected voters turned out to vote, and magic mushrooms won by a narrow margin.

Veronica Lightning Horse Perez, a leading supporter of magic mushroom legalization, said “I’m in awe of what we were able to accomplish”. It is indeed surprising that such a large number of voters turned out for the event, and more than 50% voted in favor of making psilocybin legal. The legislation will come into effect in 2024, and other plant-based psychedelics will be considered for legalization by 2026.

Psilocybin is still illegal in most states and at the federal level. Washington DC has decriminalized the use of magic mushrooms, and Oregon is the only other state where it’s legal. Colorado is set to be the 2nd state where psilocybin is legal and 3rd state where it’s decriminalized.

Supporters and opposers of psilocybin

Proponents of magic mushrooms argue that naturally occurring psychedelics have been used for ages with positive benefits, both from a spiritual and mental health perspective. New research shows that it also has physiological benefits. Moreover, the risks associated with magic mushrooms are negligible and very rare.

However, not everyone is happy with the new legislation. According to critics, this move shows how the United States is moving away from science towards populism even with medicinal ingredients. They also argue that this will send a wrong message to youngsters who will regard psilocybin as a completely harmless drug with no potential side effects.

As the voting figures show us, there isn’t an overwhelming consensus on the legalization of magic mushrooms. Far from it, many people are still against the legalization, and some pushback is likely over the next year before the legislation is enforced in 2024.

Protect Colorado’s Kids is the largest organization lobbying against the legislation. According to its head Luke Niforatos, this move “circumvent(s) science and the FDA”. Protect Colorado’s Kids will also reach out to the Drug Enforcement Administration, FDA, and U.S. Attorney for Colorado to intervene in the legislation.

Supporters of magic mushroom, on the other hand, regard this vote as a big victory for their cause. Natural Medicine Colorado, the leading lobby in favor of magic mushroom legalization, said the vote was “a truly historic moment”. According to Natural Medicine Colorado, residents of the state have already experienced the medicinal benefits of psilocybin, and that has motivated them to take a stand in its favor.

Is a psychedelic drug revolution on its way?

The United States of America is undoubtedly going through a drug revolution. With recreational marijuana being legalized in Maryland and Missouri, marijuana is now legal in 21 states. Even conservative states are showing growing support for psychedelics, particularly naturally occurring psychedelics that have proven medicinal benefits.

The ballot initiative now makes growing, possessing, and consuming magic mushrooms legal. However, it’s still illegal to sell magic mushrooms. State-regulated healing centers cannot sell magic mushrooms, but only provide them to clients for medicinal use under their supervision.

There are mixed opinions on the legalization of psilocybin, but mental health proponents are by and large optimistic about the legislation. According to doctors, researchers, and even the FDA, regulated and supervised use of psilocybin has the potential to cure mental health issues like depression, addictive personality disorder, anxiety, and PTSD.

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Use of Psychedelics in the Treatment of Unipolar and Bipolar Depression

Treatment measures for different psychological disorders have evolved with time. Doctors and scientists have resorted to utilizing more unconventional methods of treatment for different psychological disorders such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, bipolar disorders, and unipolar disorders. The use of psychedelics in the treatment of such psychological disorders has gained popularity in recent times. In this article, we shall discuss how such psychedelic drugs are being used for the treatment of bipolar and unipolar disorders.

However, before we discuss the same, let us understand psychedelics, bipolar depression, and unipolar depression in detail.

What are Psychedelics?

Psychedelics or hallucinogens are drugs that can bring about changes in a person’s mood, perception, and cognitive processes. Psychedelics are known to impact all the senses in a human body, including a person’s perception of time and emotions. Some of the most common psychedelics include Psilocybin (better known as magic mushrooms), Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), 2C-B, and Ayahuasca. While some of these psychedelic drugs are found naturally, some are artificially manufactured in laboratories. Such drugs can be found in different forms such as tablets, powders, mushrooms, and crystalline powder.

What are Unipolar Depression and Bipolar Depression?

Unipolar depression and bipolar disorder have some commonalities. Both contain depressive episodes which can lead to confusion, but there are some significant distinctions. Unipolar disorder is another name for major depressive disorder or clinical depression, also abbreviated as MDD. MDD is characterized by a constant lack of interest and melancholy in day-to-day life.

On the other hand, bipolar disorders are known to cause extreme mood swings in patients. Mania or hypomania and depression can also be the symptoms of bipolar disorder. The patients’ mood varies between extreme melancholy or depression and euphoria. A patient who suffers from bipolar disorder coupled with clinical depression is said to be suffering from bipolar depression.

Use of Psychedelics in the treatment of Unipolar depression

Studies by Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers have suggested that using psychedelic treatment with psilocybin has yielded favorable results in cases of unipolar depression. Subsequent research has further elaborated on the effectiveness of psilocybin-assisted treatment and therapy for the treatment of MDD or clinical depression. The psilocybin-assisted therapy is said to have anti-depressant properties, which when coupled with supportive psychotherapy can prove to be an effective treatment for unipolar depression.

Use of Psychedelics for treatment of Bipolar depression

In cases of bipolar depression, the use of antidepressants is not effective and should not be combined with monotherapy. In a study by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), it was discovered that mood-stabilizing psychedelic drugs led to stable improvement in people diagnosed with bipolar depression.

According to studies, several antipsychotic medications can also be used to treat bipolar disorder. The psychedelic scientific community has long held the view that people who have manic depression should refrain from using psychedelics in order to prevent their illnesses from getting worse.

However, some scientists find it safe to use ketamine for the treatment of bipolar depression. Unlike MDMA or psilocybin, ketamine does not pose the risk of a manic mood episode. Ketamine does not work like other entheogens. Instead, it works on glutamate and NMDA receptors and results in rapid anti-depressive effects on the patients. Moreover, ketamine is one of the very few medications that is considered apt for patients who already take mood-stabilizing medicines.

Patients with bipolar depression may also benefit from continuing psychotherapy in addition to medication. To assist patients to learn how to manage interpersonal conflicts more skillfully, adhere to their prescription regimens, and normalize their lifestyle patterns, this one-on-one therapy combines interpersonal psychotherapy with behavioral approaches.

The way forward

While psychedelics have shown promising effects in the treatment of mental disorders, researchers have often cautioned about possible misuse and overuse of psychedelics. Moreover, there is a need for legal frameworks and formal infrastructure to increase the popularity and acceptance of psychedelics as formal treatment modes for mental disorders.

More clinical trials using psychedelics for the treatment of mental disorders are the need of the hour. The significance of the trial’s non-drug components to the findings must also be addressed by the studies’ designers. These factors include the person’s perspective going into the encounter and the setting in which it occurs.

More trials help in establishing the authenticity and effectiveness of these treatments. Moreover, they garner the trust of the medical community through proven medical research. We can only hope to achieve newer and better treatment methods for those suffering from mental illnesses using psychedelics.

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Overcoming Obstacles to Wider Acceptance of Psychedelics in Therapy

Although the use of psychedelics has shown promising results in therapy, there is still a long way to go for its wider acceptance. In spite of their proven effectiveness in the treatment of psychological disorders, the use of psychedelics is limited by legal obstacles that can be overcome.

The need for wider acceptance of psychedelics

People all across the globe are suffering from mental health conditions. Owing to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many countries are now faced with national mental health crises. For example, the USA saw an exponential growth of drug-overdose cases and suicide rates owing to mental health conditions. Over the years, there has been very little investment of resources and time into preventive mental healthcare. In turn, this has led to a lack of motivation and innovation in the world of psychiatry.

Psychologists are investigating the therapeutic use of psychedelic substances as a possible strategy for addressing mental health problems in their hunt for more efficient treatments.

Meaning of psychedelics and their use

Psychedelics are a group of naturally occurring or synthetic compounds that are known to produce perceptional and behavioral changes in human beings. Some natural psychedelics have been used by indigenous communities for centuries while synthetic psychedelics were manufactured in labs in the early 20th century.

In the 1970s, psychedelics were categorized as Schedule I controlled substances. It was believed that they had no acceptable medical use and had a high potential for misuse. This suspended the research on the use of psychedelics in psychotherapy for decades until the middle of the 20th century. The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) authorized certain researchers to examine small doses of psychedelics in the late 1990s, which allowed researchers to pick up again. Leading academic institutions have now conducted clinical trials, and a growing body of research supports the use of psychedelics like psilocybin and MDMA in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

 

Psychologists and scientists became aware of the beneficial effects of psychedelics and how they could be along with psychotherapy for the treatment of mental health conditions.

Major obstacles to the acceptance of psychedelics

Following are some of the major hurdles on the road to wider acceptance of psychedelics in the treatment of psychological disorders.

Lack of proper funding and research

Due to the labeling of psychedelics as Schedule I controlled substances for a long time, there was little to no funding for studying the effects of psychedelics or their possible use in therapy. Owing to a federal appropriations rider, the US government could not dedicate funds for the legalization or research on the use of any drug included in Schedule I.

The rider arguably forbids the use of federal funds to promote psychedelic research as long as they are under schedule I. This is because such a study could increase scientific knowledge and offer proof in favor of rescheduling, which is a kind of legalization.

Two bills for the elimination of this rider have failed in 2019 and 2021 respectively. According to current regulations, well-capitalized private corporations pay for the majority of research, and they largely set the agenda and influence federal drug laws. The objective should be to create a psychedelics industry where patients and underrepresented groups have a voice. More inclusive clinical trials and an objective FDA regulatory examination of psychedelics are necessary to reach this objective.

Limited access due to Patents

Many parties are aiming to patent psychedelic substances and procedures for making and using them because of promising clinical study outcomes.

For around 20 years, patent holders have had the right to prevent anyone from producing, utilizing, or selling their ideas. This incentivization of the production and distribution of psychedelics has prompted severe criticism from researchers and patient advocates. It has limited the access of patients to prescribed psychedelics. To support psychedelics’ role in the genuine improvement of mental healthcare, limiting patents on them may be important.

Need for proper training

Training is required for many doctors who want to use psychedelics in their practices, and developing evidence-based clinical-practice guidelines will be crucial. Standards may lessen some healthcare practitioners’ concerns about being held liable for medical negligence if patients experience negative effects while receiving these therapies. To define the boundaries in this case, however, litigation may be required.

It is critical that governments allocate funds for psychedelics research given the escalating mental health problem and a lack of advancement in psychopharmacology. Without a proper infrastructural and legal framework, such research can bear no fruit.

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Ketamine and MDMA for Therapy

Psychedelics are taking over pharmaceutical drugs. We talked about psycobilin mushrooms, acid, and LSD for psychedelic therapy use in a previous blog, here. But, there are more options, as everyone reacts to shrooms and LSD differently. Some may prefer ketamine, or maybe even MDMA for therapy.

Ketamine and MDMA Therapy

Globally, scientists, doctors, and technicians are researching how psychedelics can help people with their mental health. From mild depression to severe PTSD, alternative medicines such as mushrooms, ketamine, and ecstasy can help people overcome their own minds. Psychedelic sessions address the problem(s) instead of sweeping it under the rug, like traditional meds do. A trained medical professional walks the patient through the session, guiding them on how to handle their emotions and what the patient needs to focus on. Here’s how ket and MDMA can help if other options aren’t suitable.

Ketamine

Ketamine is active in the medical world already as anesthesia for humans and animals. We know it helps with physical pain relief, and now we’re looking to see if it help with the mental pain. It can produce hallucinogenic effects, as well as calmness and relaxation. The most notable aspect is the supposed “out of body” experience. Those who’ve experienced ketamine report literally looking at themselves from a different perspective, literally and figuratively. So, we’re thinking maybe this can be helpful for overcoming depression. It can control epilepsy.

MDMA

MDMA is more known by its street names, ecstasy and molly. Often used at raves and parties because it brings such euphoria, and the hallucinogenic effect of a “glowing atmosphere” alters reality to be dreamy and heavenly. Some say Nirvana-like. Therefore, MDMA can help those with severe mental issues, such as extreme depression, anxiety, and PTSD. MAPS is actively trying to legalize MDMA and incorporate it into energy medicine sessions.

In related news, opium may be the next plant-based medicine for mental health. Take your and your loved ones’ mental health seriously. So, consider alternative medicine, and end the stigma on using alcohol to “drink problems away”. Thank you guys so much, we appreciate you! And lastly, don’t forget to take care of yourself!

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A Guide to Psychedelics and Neuroplasticity

Psychedelics are a group of potent hallucinogenic substances that can alter mood, perception, and several cognitive functions. Psychedelic drugs include substances like LSD and plants like magic mushrooms and peyote.

Psychedelic drugs are now being extensively used for the treatment of psychiatric illnesses like anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and addiction. These drugs have cognitive, anxiolytic, antiaddictive, and antidepressant effects on people without the habit-forming effect seen in conventional psychiatric drugs. This is making psychedelics an attractive treatment option in the field of psychiatry.

Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity, also called brain plasticity, is defined as the brain’s capability to change and adjust through development and rearrangement. It indicates the ability of the brain to reconfigure itself to function in a way different from how it did previously. These adaptations can be subtle, like new connections made along individual neural pathways, or more systematic, such as cortical remapping.

Neuroplasticity commonly occurs during certain situations, like when an individual learns a new skill or undergoes severe psychological stress. The brain learns new things when such events occur and rewires itself to accommodate these new learnings. Neuroplasticity can be developed using numerous methods like exercising, meditating, eating healthily, and sleeping adequately.

Neuroplasticity can be either functional or structural. The brain’s capacity to transfer functions from one injured area to another unharmed area is known as functional plasticity. The brain’s capacity to actually alter its physical makeup as an outcome of an experience is known as structural plasticity.

Psychedelics and neuroplasticity

A lot of studies are now being conducted by scientists to understand the effects of psychedelics on neuroplasticity. These studies are conducted by giving either a single dose of a psychedelic substance or multiple doses to a healthy test subject. Then the subacute, acute, and long-term effects the subjects suffer are studied. Preclinical research has demonstrated that following a single dose, psychedelic drugs acutely accelerate structural neuroplasticity mechanisms at the molecular and cellular levels. Studies on the long-term effects of reduced neurogenesis weeks following a single dosage of psychedelics have also been shown to induce molecular plasticity subacutely and neurogenesis acutely.

Additionally, a few preclinical investigations that looked into the connection between behavioral and biological adaptations have shown that greater learning capacity accompanied neuronal and molecular stimulation. Studies were also conducted on rodents to understand the relationship between psychedelics and neuroplasticity under stressful environments.

The sex of the test subject has also played an important role in the effects of psychedelics in preclinical studies. Research conducted on rodents has shown that male rats are more susceptible to increased anxiety levels after continuous administration of psychedelic drugs. Scientists consider that the female hormone estrogen is responsible for this difference.

The mechanism by which psychedelics stimulate neuroplasticity

The neuronal pathways that psychedelics trigger are thought to be the cause of the alterations in neuroplasticity that they cause. Traditional psychedelics influence the serotonergic receptor known as “2A.” Specific pathways are triggered when psychedelic drugs stimulate this receptor.

Two neurotransmitter systems, namely the excitatory glutamatergic system and the inhibitory serotonergic system, are activated as a result of these pathways. When they activate, two chemicals, glutamate and serotonin, are released. Another chemical called BDNF, or brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a clear indication of neuroplasticity, is also released.

Psychedelics and memory and learning

Numerous studies are now being done to understand the effects of psychedelics on memory and learning. To understand the effects of psychedelic drugs on a cellular level, brain organoids were created by scientists. Studies on these organoids have demonstrated that psychedelics enhance memory and learning to a great extent. Initial studies were conducted on rats. The rats showed a marked increase in novelty-seeking after continuous administration of the psychedelic drug LSD.

In studies conducted on healthy subjects, scientists discovered an increase in performance in memory tests after the consumption of psychedelic drugs. Scientists have concluded from this study that a single dosage of psychedelic drugs can increase neuroplasticity and improve cognition in healthy individuals for many days following the administration.

Stimulating neuroplasticity is a very controversial topic among scientists. This is because enough studies have not been conducted to understand how much neuroplasticity is good. Scientists are now trying to be cautious and find a balance.

In Conclusion

Psychedelics can truly revolutionize the fields of psychiatry and neurology. Psychedelics have already shown promise in the treatment of serious psychiatric conditions such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Using psychedelic drugs in the field of neural medicine can help with several memory and cognitive disorders. This makes psychedelics the future of modern medicine.

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Psychedelics and Eating Disorders

Among all psychiatric illnesses, anorexia claims the most number of lives. Food is the trigger for many who suffer from eating disorders, and you cannot simply “stop” eating. Finding effective therapies is crucial because eating disorders affect approximately 5% of the population.

Psychedelic treatment has been demonstrated to be effective in treating a variety of mental diseases, according to the evidence. The antidepressant and antianxiety benefits of psychedelic therapy may benefit eating disorder patients who also have depressive and anxious symptoms. Eating disorders frequently co-occur with depression and anxiety. Before delving into the use of psychedelics, let us explore a little bit more about eating disorders.

A little bit about eating disorders

Eating disorders are a collection of conditions that are characterized by extreme and distributed habits regarding eating. Some of the main symptoms of eating disorders include over-eating or not eating at all and having distressing thoughts about food.

There are mainly four different categories of eating disorders:

  • Anorexia Nervosa: Characterized by not eating food or severely under-eating, over-exercising, or both.
  • Binge-eating: Binge-eating comprises over-eating regularly.
  • Bulimia Nervosa: Some symptoms of bulimia nervosa include eating a huge amount of food followed by making up for the over-eating by forced purging or taking laxatives.
  • Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID): In this condition, the patient tends to avoid certain foods or restrict eating food, or both.
  • Other Specified Eating or Feeding Disorder (OSFED): Any eating disorder with symptoms that don’t fit into any of the above-mentioned categories, can be classified as OSFED.

Current treatments of eating disorders

The causes of eating disorders are largely unknown. Eating disorders are likely to be the result of a spectrum of environmental, physical, and biological factors. Typically, eating disorders are treated with CBT or “cognitive behavioral therapy”. CBT aims to help people change their negative perceptions and attitude around food. Along with a therapist, the guidance of a dietician to ensure a proper healthy diet is necessary for the treatment of eating disorders. Usually, there are no specific drugs that can be prescribed for the treatment of eating disorders alone. When coupled with other mental illnesses such as depression, existential disorders, or anxiety, drugs may be prescribed.

How psychedelics can treat eating disorders?

Research shows that psychedelic therapy can have promising effects in the treatment of certain mental illnesses like anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, existential crisis, and the like. The antidepressant or anti-anxiety effects of psychedelic treatment can help in the treatment of eating disorders. It helps people who suffer from eating disorders change their perceptions and attitude toward food. Psychedelics have the power to induce changes in brain activity. Therefore, it can alter some changes in brain activity that lead to eating disorders.

Following are some of the most commonly used psychedelics for the treatment of eating disorders.

MDMA

Sometimes, eating disorders develop as a response to past traumas. MDMA therapy could assist people with eating disorders establish trauma coping mechanisms that don’t entail restricting their diet and weight by enabling them to comprehend and process their traumas better.

Psilocybin

Psilocybin, also commonly referred to as magic mushrooms, has shown promising results in the treatment of mental illnesses like obsessive-compulsive disorder, abbreviated as OCD, depression, and anxiety. Obsessive thoughts and compulsive attitudes are two traits that OCD and eating disorders have in common. Psilocybin therapy’s success in treating OCD serves as a testament to how successful it might be in treating eating disorders.

Ayahuasca

A study of patients with eating disorders showed that ayahuasca led to a rapid decrease in attitudes and symptoms associated with eating disorders. It helped patients process painful memories or thoughts and improved self-acceptance.

Ketamine

One of the major symptoms of eating disorders is compulsive behavior. For example, throwing up after a meal. Research has shown that when ketamine infusions were given to patients with eating disorders, it helped reduce compulsive behavior. It shows how ketamine therapy could be an effective treatment for eating disorders.

The approaches used to treat eating disorders today frequently fall short. Therefore, it is understandable why researchers are looking into psychedelics as a different kind of therapy to treat this fatal psychiatric condition.

There is sufficient evidence to support the theory that therapy utilizing various psychedelics may be helpful in treating patients who suffer from various eating disorders. It is critical that this field of study continues since the high incidence and death rate attributed to eating disorders make it imperative to identify novel treatments.

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How Psychedelics are Changing the Mainstream Pharmaceutical Industry

Psychedelic compounds like ecstasy and psilocybin have emerged as life-changing treatments for mental illnesses like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depressive disorder. Earlier, governments have disregarded and demonized psychedelics as psychosis-inducing scourges. However, over the past decade, serious scientific studies have shown that psychedelic compounds have the capacity to enter mainstream medicine for the treatment of mental illnesses. It is being considered the next breakthrough in the treatment of mental illnesses.

What Are Psychedelics?

Commonly referred to as hallucinogens, psychedelics are a class of psychoactive substances that are capable of producing changes in mood, perception, and cognitive functions. Psychedelics have the power to affect all senses in the body, including a person’s thought process and emotions. Some of the most common psychedelics are LSD, Psilocybin, DMT, NBOMe, and Ayahuasca.

Psychedelics for the Treatment of Mental Illnesses

According to Kripa Krishnan, a senior analytical consultant at Informa Pharma Intelligence, “there is definitely an unmet need for a lot of psychiatric illnesses”. It can be said that there is a huge demand for drugs that are impactful for treating various mental illnesses. Research by various psychiatrists is hailing psychedelics like LSD, psilocybin, and 3-4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), along with ketamine, as the next breakthrough in the treatment of mental illnesses. Psychiatrists have discovered that such psychedelics are effective in the treatment of mental illnesses like PTSD, treatment-resistant depression, existential distress, and the like when other therapies have proved to be ineffective.

The emergence of Psychedelics as an effective treatment

The recent popularity of psychedelics in treating mental illnesses finds its roots in the 2010s. Different research groups at Los Angeles, Johns Hopkins University, University of California, Imperial College London, University of Zurich, and New York University discovered the quick and lasting effects of psychedelics. Psilocybin was used to treat a small group of people suffering from treatment-resistant depression and existential disorders. The results were a breakthrough for the typical drug therapies for these disorders. After just one or two psychedelic treatments administered under strict supervision and in conjunction with rigorous psychotherapy, patients could experience long-lasting effects.

Recognizing the Potential of Psychedelics

Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals, which in 2019 received US Food and Medicine Administration approval for Spravato for treatment-resistant depression, became the first US business to benefit from efforts to legitimate a mind-altering drug. Not only psychiatric professionals are intrigued by psychedelics’ potential. The pharmaceutical industry is paying attention as well- more than 80 businesses are focused on creating or using psychedelic substances. Investors anticipate a boom in demand for psychedelic therapy in the upcoming years.

Due to encouraging scientific and clinical findings and an increase in the number of publicly traded firms active in the psychedelic industry, investment in psychedelics has increased significantly. The use of psychedelics to treat mental illness has enormous commercial potential, which has spurred significant investment in the field during the past four years.

Companies have been attracted by larger and more robust clinical trials for psychedelics. Efforts are being made for the establishment of a legal framework for the use of psychedelics in the treatment of mental illnesses. The establishment of the infrastructure to administer psychedelic-assisted psychotherapies and the growing public support for a significant change in mental healthcare are further factors luring investors.

Challenges facing the Psychedelic Sector

Even if corporations are successful in turning psychedelics into therapeutic medications, these substances will still have to deal with the stigma that is frequently attached to them in society. Breaking the cultural stigma associated with the use of psychedelics is not an easy task. Moreover, some scientists are skeptical about whether it is possible to decouple the hallucinatory effects of psychedelics from their therapeutic effects.

Despite the increase in funding, there haven’t been many published studies of investments made in the psychedelic industry. Currently, the delivery and commercialization of psychedelics present a significant barrier to their widespread use.

A total of $60 million was invested in businesses with a focus on psychedelics in both 2018 and 2019. As psychedelic-focused enterprises and new scientific trials proliferated, the volume of investment reached roughly 10 times this amount in 2020. It won’t be long until major pharmaceutical corporations start including psychedelics in their product line.

For these excellent therapies to be adopted more quickly and to generate value for the corporations that will profit from them, legislative and regulatory changes will be essential. Finally, there is a positive public perception of psychedelic medical treatments, and as the advantages become more widely recognized, there will be a rise in demand for these therapies.

Photo by Roberto Sorin

Why are Drug Companies Investing Big Time in Therapeutic Psychedelics?

Rising investments in an uncharted avenue

Ancient civilizations believed that psychedelic compounds could alter human consciousness, thereby dubbing them “spiritual guides”. Now, drug companies are investing big-time in the therapeutic psychedelic industry after scientific studies highlighting their beneficial effects in treating psychiatric illnesses started emerging.

However, the in-depth scientific study of psychedelic compounds has been disregarded for many decades. Much of it is because of them being too politically charged and the perspective around these substances as psychosis-inducing bane that’s created in mainstream society by governments. The 1971 United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances placed psychedelics in its most restrictive category. However, times are now changing as their benefits are hailed by many psychiatrists and drug companies.

Major drug companies are now showing keen interest in psychedelic substances like Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin (magic mushrooms), and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), in addition to mind-altering, non-psychedelic drugs like ketamine. That’s because studies have shown these compounds can be the next breakthrough in the treatment of mental illnesses. People suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depressive disorder, substance disorder, and existential distress can find great healing potential in psychedelic compounds when other therapies have failed to deliver results.

So far, more than 80 drug companies have devoted themselves to creating or administering certain psychedelic compounds. Investors in the therapeutic psychedelic industry reckon that the demand for safe and effective psychedelic therapies will hike significantly in the years to come. Moreover, some of the companies are focused on first­-gen psychedelic compounds like MDM, also known as ecstasy, and psilocybin.

There are firms that wonder if they can use information derived from scientific studies conducted on the receptors in the brain that bind to these molecules to boost them by bringing down certain negative properties of the drug. This can be cardiac side effects and risk of heavy drug use. Some drug companies are even expecting to create molecules of psychedelic compounds that do away with the hallucinogenic effects completely while retaining their therapeutic features. However, many scientists believe that the psychedelic “high” changes the perspective—something that’s considered crucial for treating people with mental illness.

A quick peek into history

The present surge in the popularity of psychedelic compounds started with studies that were conducted during the mid-2010s. Research groups at the New York University, University of California, Imperial College London, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Zurich unraveled the fast and durable effects of psychedelics, especially psilocybin, to treat those with treatment-resistant mental illnesses like depression, PTSD, and existential distress.

The results of the studies dismantled the paradigm for typical drug therapies for mental health problems, according to Fred Barrett, a cognitive neuroscientist, and researcher at the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research. Patients suffering from intractable mental health issues saw lasting effects after just one or two administrations under controlled conditions and coupled with psychotherapy.

The first company in the United States to be rewarded for attempting to endorse a mind-altering compound was Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals. In 2019, the company got US Food and Drug Administration approval to launch Spravato for treatment-resistant depressive disorder. Essentially, Spravato is a nasal spray containing an anesthetic S enantiomer of ketamine and a party drug, called Special K. Patients self-administer Spravato in a doctor’s clinic or medical setting and then remain under supervision for a few hours. People typically are given two treatments a week for four weeks along with an antidepressant.

Technically speaking, ketamine is not a psychedelic compound. However, its approval laid the foundation for the idea of treating difficult mental health conditions using a substance that’s widely considered illicit. The use of ketamine treatment was foreseen as a breakthrough in a field that has been stagnant in terms of innovation after the SSRIs, which happened in the 1980s. It was only last year that researchers from the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and many other institutions published the results they got from a Phase 3 clinical trial. As a part of the trial, people suffering from PTSD were given three doses of MDMA at an interval of four weeks, coupled with psychotherapy. Such people showed sustained improvement just two months after the treatment, contrary to those who consumed a placebo.

Conclusion

The surge in investment in therapeutic psychedelics shows no sign of slowing down. The rate is likely to continue increasing as several larger companies are inching closer to launch. Surely, that’s going to propel the industry, which is poised to offer hope and relief to people who desperately require alternative therapies.