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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Here’s how MDMA and psilocybin can revolutionize psychiatry

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Kuldeep Singh
Kuldeep is a Journalist and Writer at Revyuh.com. He writes about topics such as Apps, how to, tips and tricks, social network and covers the latest story from the ground. He stands in front of and behind the camera, creates creative product images and much more. Always ready to review new products. Email: kuldeep (at) revyuh (dot) com

These two substances are expected to be approved for therapeutic use by the FDA in 2023, which could be a complete change in the treatment of people with resistant depression or post-traumatic disorder.

For decades, we have seen countless headlines attesting to the positive effects of drugs such as MDMA or psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms) to treat various mental disorders. In fact, scientists from the most prestigious universities in the country on the other side of the Atlantic such as Michael Pollan or Rick Doblin have been endorsing the therapeutic benefit of using these substances as an alternative to antidepressants such as Prozac for years. Keep in mind that the United States has also suffered an opioid crisis for a long time that causes 90 overdoses every day, which is undoubtedly outrageous, so the effort of these priests has focused on discovering much more effective drugs in order to reduce the symptoms of diseases such as depression or severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

Now, a new study carried out by Doblin and his team and published in the journal ‘Nature Medicine’, once again places these treatments so controversial and demonized by traditional medicine in the spotlight, by managing to remit the symptoms of serious patients thanks to to the use of MDMA under close medical supervision, a designer drug better known as “ecstasy” or “Molly” used mostly in the recreational and party setting. 

At the same time, these results come just after the ‘New England Journal of Medicine’ concluded in another investigation that psilocybin is used to treat depression. Scientists expect a regulation for ecstasy to arrive in 2023, while for psilocybin it will take two more years for it to enter pharmacies.

Recently, the ‘New York Times’ has echoed both studies to testify that therapy with these drugs, which have always been so demonized, enters fully into traditional psychiatry and not only that but also in the financial market, becoming a top-tier industry in which large Wall Street shareholders will not hesitate to invest.

Towards decriminalization

Doblin, 67, has spent 40 years trying to test the effectiveness of MDMA in his patients. Currently, he leads the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), which has become a large multi-million dollar research empire with a team of 130 neuroscientists, pharmacists, and drug regulation specialists to move towards hypothetical regulation that is falling. 

But this is only the tip of the iceberg, since the best universities in the country, such as Harvard or Stanford are competing to create psychotropic research centers, as well as many investors, are already financing ‘start-ups’ that intend to commercialize these pharmacological products in the future. Meanwhile, more and more states are joining the decriminalization of this type of drug for its therapeutic and also, in some cases, recreational use.

“There has been a radical change in the acceptance of something that until not long ago was considered as marginal science,” observes Michael Pollan for his part in the New York newspaper, one of the main drivers of this opening of psychiatry towards ecstasy or psilocybin. 

His book, ‘How to Change Your Mind’, was all a ‘best-seller’ both in the United States and in the rest of the world, helping to remove the stigma of these drugs. 

“Given the great mental health crisis our country is going through, there is great curiosity and hope placed in psychedelics and a recognition by doctors that we need new therapeutic tools.”

There are already many studies that have shown that neither LSD nor psilocybin produces the slightest addiction, unlike opioids. It is also shown that they do not harm the organs. As for MDMA, it does seem to have a more addictive component, but if it is consumed in very low doses, the brain does not suffer any danger. 

Although scientists who are working to demonstrate its positive effects do not stop insisting that more funding is needed to discover possible side effects or how it could affect patients with previous illnesses. 

The greatest risk, in the case of lysergic drugs, is that what is known as “a bad trip” occurs in the patient, as well as a risk of psychosis in people with underlying mental disorders, as some reports admit.

From the fight against drugs to astronomical investment

The other side of the coin is the enormous amount of money that it can generate in the pharmaceutical sector if these products end up being regulated and marketed. Investors have been driven by policy change in drug prevention and use, partly due to the country’s growing acceptance of recreational marijuana use and also based on the large number of deaths and money destined for the war on drugs. It should not be forgotten that last year Oregon became the first state to legalize the therapeutic use of psilocybin, followed by the states of Denver, Oakland, California, and Washington DC.

Money moves fast and in large quantities around psychedelics. Leading firms like Canada’s Field Trip Health have raised $ 150 million to fund dozens of high-end ketamine clinics in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston. Private medical companies are also not far behind: Nasdaq-listed Compass Pathways has raised $ 240 million to conduct clinical trials of psilocybin to treat resistant depression.

In addition, the psychedelic industry is also betting on offering unique experiences to its patients and users, with luxurious and purposefully decorated ‘suites’ for the sessions that are already beginning to be built in Manhattan. One of the companies that already performs this type of session is Field Trip Health, previously mentioned, which happens that unlike administering psilocybin or ecstasy to their patients, they use ketamine, an anesthetic better known as a “tranquilizer for horses”. 

The “integration sessions”, as they call them, come after lysergic trips that tend to last around 90 minutes (although ketamine is not a psychedelic drug, if used in high doses it can lead to hallucinations). All these procedures are performed under the guidance of accredited therapists who accompany their clients and patients in the process of accepting and integrating their hallucinogenic experiences.

The next wave of psychosis?

But the euphoria of these companies and investment funds also contrasts with that of the academic side most opposed or fearful of changes. One of those interviewed by ‘The New York Times’ is Charles S. Grob, professor of psychiatry at UCLA medical school, who has spent several decades studying hallucinogenic components and their application in psychiatric therapy. 

According to him, the rush to commercialize these products in the market and the recreational use that can be given to them can cause a wave of psychotic reactions among the population.

“Rigorous protocols and a system are needed to train and accredit psychedelic medical professionals,” says Grob. 

We have to be very attentive to the safety parameters, because if conditions are not properly maintained, there is a great risk that some people will go off the rails, psychologically speaking. This series of projects is progressing with profits, I think there will be a greater number of mishaps or unwanted results.”

Doblin fights back. 

Our goal is to achieve massive good mental health,” he says, also explaining his refusal to allow private companies to fully participate in the capital of his company. 

“It is not to make a lot of money. You have to admit that we have made very rapid progress, so the challenges are very great. We could ruin it at the last minute, so I am not going to celebrate it ahead of time.”

Image Credit: Getty

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