CANNABIS CULTURE – Speakers from across North America connected at the first-ever Psychedelic Summit to provide education to the public on the new wave of modern consciousness-expanding medicine.
To begin the summit, which took place on February 25, 2021, Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) Development Officer, Liana Gillooly, said her organization’s goal is to treat the root cause of trauma, which they believe is not being addressed by the pharmaceutical industry. “The vast majority of people who take psychedelics currently do so out of a clinical, therapeutic, or ceremonial environment.”
In a medical setting, MAPS has been focusing on MDMA-assisted therapy to combat PTSD, which affects over 350 million people globally. However, two-thirds of these people do not adequately respond to available treatments.
Suicide rates in the United States have increased 24% since the year 1999 and psychiatric drug spending has increased in that same time from $13 billion to over $50 billion. “It is clear the way the pharmaceutical industry understands and treats mental disorders is deeply insufficient,” Gillooly said.
COVID-19 has amplified this challenge. The rate of depression and suicidal ideation have both tripled, and over half of Americans reported their mental health was negatively impacted by the pandemic.
Ketamine has been FDA approved since 1970 and holds promise for treating depression when paired with therapy sessions. However, Gillooly said the pharmaceutical company Janssen, thought that adding therapy to the treatment was an expensive barrier to market, “So instead we have a company charging upwards of $800 per dose for a drug that has been around for decades and costs providers under $3 per dose.”
Dr. Michael Verbora is Medical Director at Field Trip Health, an organization that is looking to move away from the current approach to mental illness that involves the daily use of medication, the passive “wait and see” attitude for results, and minimal psychotherapy.
Verbora said for every clinic doing ketamine-assisted psychotherapy there are 5 or 6 giving the drug without therapy, “I’m fairly confident that while we do see that does have anti-depressive effects, people are gonna rely on the drug more and more.”
Dr. Matthew Johnson, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins University believes psychedelics work better than the average antidepressant because they bring about a dramatic experience to “dope-slap people out of their story,” allowing them to open “…a window of flexibility where they let go of the mental models we use to organize reality.”
In one psilocybin study, Johnson said there was an increase in the personality dimension of openness. “This is interesting because a personality dimension, by definition, is not supposed to change. It’s supposed to be a trait.”
This was the result of having a “mystical experience.” This idea was first reported, largely outside of drug use in the 1800s. It is described as one feeling a sense of unity, an overall positive mood, and seeming to transcend time and space.
Although historically demonized, the harms and risks of Ketamine, MDMA, and Psilocybin are not nearly as bad as tobacco and alcohol said Verbora. “The political regulation of these drugs does not reflect the reality of the harms to an individual and their families.”
“It’s curious that the one ingredient that is constantly in that recipe of social change, which is consistently expunged from the record, is the fact that tens of millions of us lay prostrate before the gates of awe having taken some psychedelic,” said Wade Davis, Professor of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia.
Timothy Ko is the CEO of Entheon Biomedical, a company focused on using DMT for treating addiction. When Ko’s brother died in March of 2019 from a fentanyl overdose, despite his family spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to help his brother, Ko said the experience opened his eyes to the limitations to treating addiction in modern medicine.
Ko’s said he sees the value of psychedelics. For it to be given to the people that need it the most, it needs to be validated in a clinical setting. That way, it can be presented to regulators and they have no choice but to view things objectively.
“When we talk about training and onboarding this type of new research, there’s a lot of work to be done for clinicians to get up to speed and to deploy this work in a really thoughtful and mindful way,” said Mind Cure CEO Kelsey Ramsden.
“One of the things that really excites me about this entire movement is it’s going to shift the entire conversation about how we think about humanity, how we think about health,” said Ronan Levy, Founder of Field Trip Health.
Levy thinks that the medicalization and the legalization of psychedelics complement each other. In a medical approach, people who are diagnosed as sick will have access to medical care, and in a legalization approach, there is plenty of benefits that people can get from psychedelic therapies in a controlled setting with professional supervision.
Speaking on the stigmas of the past regarding psychedelics, Davis said, “Our parents used to always say to us when we were kids don’t take these things, you’ll never come back the same.’ And of course, what they didn’t understand is that that, in some sense, was the entire bloody point.”