It has been a few months since my last “week in psychedelics” and as all things change and move so do the seasons. Autumn is upon us and here in Los Angeles we may not feel the change of seasons yet but there is change in the air when it comes to the world of non-ordinary states. As there is always something happening I have put together a brief synopsis of what I thought the most compelling pieces of news might be. So sit back, get comfy, get lit, and catch up as you lean into fall the non-ordinary way.
It looks like House lawmakers are cozying up to the idea of the potential therapeutic benefits of psychedelics for PTSD for military personnel. They have introduced a series of drug policy-related amendments to defense legislation, including proposals to facilitate research on the benefits of psychedelics for active duty military personnel.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R -Texas), who formerly voted against marijuana and drug policy policy reform measures in Congress including removing barriers to research on the benefits of psychedelics is now singing a different song and filed a measure that would allow the Secretary of Defense to approve grants for research into the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics such as MDMA, psilocybin, ibogaine and 5–MeO–DMT for active duty members suffering from PTSD. This former veteran either sipped the kool-aid, his empathy meter kicked in, or sense and sensibility settled upon him.
The grants could be awarded to federal or state agencies, academic institutions or non-profit organizations. Researchers would need to “conduct one or more phase two clinical trials for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder” involving either individual or group therapy. The grant money could also be used to support training practitioners to treat eligible military members with psychedelics.
With luck this is one amendment that will go somewhere and not get lost in the paperwork shuffle.
A larger debate has been on the horizon and could topple the field of research in general when it comes to psychedelics and this is the discourse of the role of mysticism in psychedelic science. In a paper published in May 2021 entitled “Moving Past Mysticism in Psychedelic Science” the author scientists are encouraging the scientific community to essentially take the mystical out of the mystical.
Within psychedelic science, we are concerned that use of the mysticism framework creates a “black box” mentality in which researchers are content to treat certain aspects of the psychedelic state as beyond the scope of scientific inquiry. This is in line with the concept of “psychedelic exceptionalism”: when psychedelic experiences are taken to be “so sacred or important that the normal rules do not apply”.(1) As scientists, we should not be satisfied to label psychedelic experiences as “ineffable”, “paradoxical”, or “void”, and should realize that the term mystical does little in terms of explaining psychobiological phenomena. Although the subjective aspect of psychedelic experiences may be difficult for the individual to fathom and describe, the terminology and conceptualization scientists use in their research should not imply that a psychedelic experience holds a special status of inaccessibility beyond other kinds of experience. To assume this special status a priori is unscientifically pessimistic.
In addition, we are concerned that the use of mystical terminology courts misinterpretation of psychedelic research findings. According to the American Psychological Association, mysticism is defined by its association with divine and supernatural sources of knowledge and truth,(7) just like it is commonly defined. We recognize that most scientists studying psychedelics do not include supernatural elements in their definition of mysticism, but the translation from lab to clinical practice and layperson must be considered. We are concerned that if science states that psychedelics induce mystical experiences that are key to their therapeutic action, this is too easily misinterpreted as research advocating a role for the supernatural or divine. The problem is exacerbated when mystical experience phenomena are conflated with mystical beliefs about what psychedelic experiences mean.
However, not all agree that taking the transcendent out of the journey does the psychedelic experience justice. In an rebuttal article entitled Working with Weirdness: A Response to “Moving Past Mysticism in Psychedelic Science” the authors argue that acknowledging the varieties and weirdness of psychedelic experiences should be at the heart of any research program on this topic.
The authors’ arguments for getting rid of mysticism in psychedelic science seem to rest upon their confusion of mysticism as an esoteric, woozy notion (they suffuse their article with supposed synonyms of mystical experiences: the arcane, supernatural, fantastical, divine, and “the encroachment of supernatural and nonempirical beliefs”), rather than an extensively described phenomenon and object of serious scientific study. Dismissing mystical experiences as scientifically irrelevant or even wholly unempirical is a straw man argument that does not do justice to the depth and complexity of this topic. In doing so, they ignore the frequency with which people report psychedelic-induced mystical-type experiences and the personal and spiritual value attributed to them, and seemingly deny that characteristics of mystical experiences have been, can be, and are studied empirically.
As psychedelic assisted therapies and psychedelic medicine companies continue to become more mainstream it is important that psychedelic spirituality not be undermined or invalidated as the point of a mind manifesting experience is to go beyond what may not be so easily explained away.
This pushback against the centrality of mystical experiences, they say, is tied to the “emerging commercialization and medicalization of psychedelic-assisted therapies.” In recent years, several pharmaceutical companies and major government contractors have released products and begun studies that view the consciousness-altering aspects of the psychedelic experience as dangerous “side effects” that need to be removed from therapy. Breeksema and van Eck see this as the dangerous development, not the serious study of psychedelic spirituality. “Getting rid of mystical experiences because they are difficult to research, lack plausible neurocognitive explanation or because of problematic colloquial associations would be throwing away the baby with the bathwater,” they write.
If it’s mystical experiences we want we can look no further than DMT, N-dimethyltryptamine. DMT is an active ingredient in ayahuasca, and made the news over the summer when MindMed (NASDAQ: NMD) announced the initiation of a Phase I clinical trial looking into the effects of this “potent” psychedelic compound.
MindMed said it intends to study an intravenous administration method throughout its Phase 1 clinical trial, which obtained all necessary regulatory approvals in Switzerland. The trial is part of the company’s collaboration with the University Hospital Basel Liechti Lab and is being conducted by Dr. Matthias Liechti. The study will include 30 subjects “in a randomized 5-period crossover, double-blind, placebo-controlled design.”
“Currently no study has validly determined the elimination half-life of DMT or other pharmacokinetic parameters, and our study will provide valuable information for future research on DMT as a tool to examine alterations of the mind,” said Dr. Miri Halperin Wernli, executive president of MindMed.
This was perfect timing for MindMed to commence what is a first for any of the psychedelic companies listed on the major stock exchanges as recent changes in leadership with the stepping down of J.R. Rahn, the Company’s co-founder and chief executive officer at the beginning of the summer with the immediate appointment of its chief development officer, Robert Barrow, to take over the position of chief executive officer. And just last week MindMed announced the board of directors has appointed Mr. Andreas Krebs and Ms. Carol Vallone as directors of the Company, effective immediately. With this addition comes the departure of Bruce Linton from the Board of Directors.
Mr. Krebs said, “Mental health issues directly or indirectly impact almost every one of us at some point in our lives. I’m thrilled at the opportunity to help MindMed find better solutions to this huge challenge in the coming years.” Ms. Vallone said, “I feel privileged to support MindMed’s esteemed team of scientists and business professionals in the pursuit of new medicines and therapies for those who suffer with mental illness.” Effective September 29, 2021, Mr. Bruce Linton stepped down from the Company’s board of directors in order to make room for the appointment of Ms. Vallone and Mr. Krebs. Mr. Linton said, “In a little over two years MindMed has gone from a topic that was frankly difficult to find support for, to attracting world class talent and deep capacity capital.” He added further “I am delighted with the candidates joining and look forward to the world of change MindMed can achieve.”
Next, there is a new kid, or rather software APP, on the psychedelic block founded by some Stanford brainiacs. And it is doing quite well! Meet Osmind. Osmind is a care platform for “patients with treatment resistant mental health conditions”.for patients with treatment resistant mental health
Osmind was founded in 2020 after Lucia Huang (now CEO) and Jimmy Qian (now COO) met while they were studying at Stanford. Over dinner one night, the two discussed their own mental health journeys, the stigma they experienced growing up, and seeing those they know “fall through the system” by not being able to find good treatments and their joint fascination with the innovations to come.
“We wanted to build something that would truly move the needle in mental health and be able to help all of the new providers that are focusing on specifically more higher acuity patients in this country and provide them better software, while at the same time contributing to research,” Huang says.
Lastly, if downloading apps tells you the psychedelic renaissance has passed the revival stage and has now moved into the Silicon Valley stage then the booming magic mushroom retreat market must tell you that the wellness industry is the final frontier for travel and holiday respites in exotic parts of the globe. And these mental health time-outs cost quite a pretty penny.
Apparently, there is already a booming psychedelic market within the wellness industry. According to Data Bridge Market Research, the psychedelic market is projected to reach $10.7 billion by 2027, which in 2020 was valued at $3.8 billion.
Often set in luxurious locations with good food and comfortable rooms, it’s not only magic mushrooms used. Soltara Healing Center near the Gulf of Nicoya in Costa Rica offers ayahuasca ceremonies, which are led by native Shipibo healers. A trip of this kind could cost between $2,600 and $8,900, depending on the length of stay and quality of room.
Does one have to have an extra ten grand in the bank to feel like their upcoming holiday season mushroom trip will be consequential and led by real life shamans? Absolutely not. There is a lot of local nature just beckoning. Take it from this psychonaut homebody – set and setting are important and all it might take is a trusted sober person or a local knowledgeable trip sitter or guide to let the medicine take you to that exotic memorable place in your mind.
Disclaimer: Absolutely nothing you read in here should be taken as investment advice. The discussion of securities and ideas is never to be considered a recommendation to buy or sell any. Always do your own due diligence.
Author: Sherri Margolin (Dark Matters)