Psychedelics are part of a class of psychotropics that are known to activate the serotonin receptors in our brain, which have a direct effect on mood, cognition, and perception.
Their use as a treatment for mental healing and to facilitate spiritual experiences dates back thousands of years in a variety of different cultures across the globe, but for the first time in history, the benefits of psychedelics, backed by recently gained scientific evidence, have shown promise as "breakthrough therapies" in treating a range of cognitive and physical conditions, which have been labeled as treatment-resistant to traditional medicines and therapies.
These new medical studies and the companies at the forefront of the industry's development are changing the way we think about mental health and human consciousness, creating a psychedelic renaissance for global wellness and unprecedented opportunities.
The following are some of the most common forms of psychedelics used within the last century and includes those that are being studied today as medical treatments for a range of intractable ailments:
Psilocybin mushrooms, commonly known as “magic mushrooms,” are capable of producing mystical-type experiences and powerful hallucinations in those who consume it.
Ibogaine, a naturally occurring alkaloid found in the root bark of plants in the Apocynaceae family, has traditionally been used as medicine and a ritual tool in the Bwiti religion in Gabon, Africa.
LSD is a synthetically manufactured and powerful psychedelic drug derived from lysergic acid.
Ketamine is a general anesthetic that was first synthesized in 1962 and is used most commonly in veterinary practice as an animal tranquilizer.
Mescaline is a naturally occurring psychoactive alkaloid with hallucinogenic properties derived from a range of cacti.
DMT, the active hallucinogenic compound in ayahuasca, is a naturally occurring psychedelic chemical that is found at low concentrations in many plants and animals.
MDMA is a synthetic stimulant drug of the central nervous system (CNS) that alters mood and perception and is derived from amphetamine.
For centuries, psychedelics have been valued by various cultures for healing properties and for use in religious rituals. Not until the early 20th century did psychedelic compounds first become recognized, studied and synthesized by Western chemists.
Substances, such as psilocybin and LSD, showed promise in their therapeutic effects to treat mental health disorders, and by the late 1950s and 60s thousands of medical review articles had been written on the subject.
These powerful drugs were discovered by (and perhaps helped to define) ‘hippie’ counterculture and soon thereafter, via the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1970, psychedelics were classified by the federal government as illicit Schedule I drugs, which effectively ended and outlawed all research efforts.
In the decades that followed, psychedelic research remained a third rail issue, meaning that anyone who got involved risked professional marginalization. Nevertheless, in 2000 Dr. Roland Griffiths, aware of the reputational risks, initiated a new set of psilocybin trials with federal approvals and the support of Johns Hopkins University.
In 2006, Dr. Griffiths and his team published their peer-reviewed investigation in the journal Psychopharmacology titled, “Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance.”
The significance of this landmark study was that for the first time, the benefit of psychedelic usage was scientifically proven through exhaustive observation, including double-blind protocols and peer reviews, allowing psychedelics to emerge as a respected treatment for various cognitive and physical disorders.
From this point forward, Johns Hopkins, and a handful of other universities in the U.S. and abroad, have commissioned an immense amount of follow-up research to explore how psychedelics might help with intractable ailments. Especially within the last 12 months, the evidence of psychedelics’ therapeutic efficacy has shown great promise for those suffering with treatment-resistant mental disorders.
The 2006 Johns Hopkins study is what investors would refer to as a proof of concept demonstration in the therapeutic efficacy of psychedelics to treat a number of mental disorders, such as PTSD, depression, anxiety and addiction, which affects tens of millions worldwide. Traditional treatments are costly and usually involve counseling and medication, which takes time to produce meaningful results and have a disturbingly high failure rate.
Clinical evidence has shown that psychedelics may offer significant improvement over existing treatments, and the FDA has designated psilocybin, MDMA and Ketamine as “breakthrough therapies” in treating these conditions. This has created a surge of activity in the psychedelics industry, including the announcement of new trials being conducted by world-renowned doctors and scientists, and the first psychedelic company IPOs have been launched just within the last few months. In September 2019, Johns Hopkins established the Center for Psychedelic & Consciousness Research with $17 million from a small group of investors as a fully-funded, freestanding research facility, being led by Dr. Griffiths.
The facility is the first of its kind in the U.S. setting the standard for the groundbreaking work being done in the field at other universities, such as Yale, University of Miami and Wisconsin. The companies to watch at the forefront of this important work are ATAI Life Sciences, Champignon Brands, Compass Pathways, MAPS and MindMed.
FDA-approved studies regarding the use of psychedelics as medicine are currently being conducted by a number of innovative companies in conjunction with universities across the U.S. and abroad. These programs are being led by world-renowned doctors, scientists and clinicians around the globe.
By the end of 2021, these studies are expected to yield promising results on the efficacy of psychedelics to treat debilitating mental disorders, such as PTSD, addiction and treatment resistant depression. With growing interest worldwide on the therapeutic research of psychedelics as medicine, we aim to keep our readers informed of recent developments, progress and medicinal breakthroughs that are revealed through these intriguing studies.
FDA-approved studies at world-renowned research centers, such as Johns Hopkins, Yale, Wisconsin, and University of Miami, are in various phases of trials to review psychedelics as medicine. With results expected as early as 2021, research news will keep our readers apprised of the latest scientific developments as a new era of medicine prepares to successfully heal treatment-resistant mental conditions and expand collective consciousness.
Psychedelics are experiencing a renaissance of sorts. What its early pioneers had suspected and were exploring in the mid 20th century with regards to therapeutic efficacy are now, five decades later, coming full circle with validation through scientifically proven measures.
Albert Hoffman, a Swiss chemist, discovered LSD in 1938 in Basel, Switzerland. Mr. Hoffman was also responsible for isolating the first psilocybin compound in 1957 while working for Sandoz Pharmaceuticals Labs, which in 1958 produced the first synthetic psilocybin drug called Indocybin that was marketed for psychotherapeutic uses in the 1960s.
The early days of psychedelics as medicine were short-lived, but it laid the groundwork for the exciting revelations that are occurring today.
The Harvard Psilocybin Project was a series of trials between 1960 and 1962 conducted by two psychology professors, Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert, who administered psychedelics, including LSD, psilocybin and mescaline, to students in an attempt to understand their effects on people.
Both professors unceremoniously split ties with Harvard in 1963, due to the administration of their drug project. However, both men continued to influence Harvard for years to come by initiating debates on the role of psychedelics on campus and playing a prominent role in bringing 1960s drug culture to the main stream of America’s consciousness.
Because of the unscientific administration and public fear of the dangers of widespread use, psychedelics were criminalized and classified in 1970 as an illicit Schedule I drug with no therapeutic benefits. The reckless use and abuse during this era caused Albert Hoffman to later refer to LSD as his ‘problem child.’
After five decades, psychedelics still remain illegal and stigmatized in many parts of the world, but new studies are showing promise in the therapeutic effects of psychedelics as treatment for chronic ailments.
The launch of Johns Hopkins’ Center for Psychedelic Research & Consciousness in September 2019 and the April 2019 launch of its counterpart at Imperial College in London, has given psychedelic medicine its long-sought and coveted standing in the scientific establishment. These drugs will require further evidence before they can be prescribed by physicians, but quite a few of the clinical studies are in advanced stages of the trials, and results are expected as early as 2021.
At the forefront of these studies are innovative companies creating this new frontier from a medicinal and financial perspective. Psychedelic neuroscience companies have gone public within the first couple of months in 2020, and perhaps a few more may follow this year.
These IPOs coupled with the groundbreaking research being done, which has already yielded promising results in ongoing studies, equates to tremendous opportunities for investors in public markets unlike anything ever seen, except for the .com boom of the 90s perhaps.
However, unlike the tech industry, there are only a handful of companies with the credentials to collaborate in these FDA approved studies so the field of first to market is relatively small, the price of entry is reasonable, and industry developments are occurring at a rapid rate.
While the focus of the psychedelics reform movement remains on the therapeutic effects of these drugs to treat serious health conditions and be administered in clinical sessions, some jurisdictions around the U.S. are making the bold move to decriminalize the use and possession of psilocybin.
The movement appears to come on the heels of the popularity with microdosing psychedelics, the practice of taking small doses on a regular basis to increase creativity, production and cognitive brain function, where the success of this practice has been widely covered by the tech industry in Silicon Valley.
As psychedelics continue to transform our medicinal, financial and cultural landscape, reform news will keep our readers up to date on the latest developments and leading stories that are shaping this emerging industry, the financial opportunities that exist within it and the way we think about possibilities of the mind, mental health and human consciousness .