In this week’s Psychedelic News Roundup, we highlight a growing trend of psychedelic experimentation among baby boomers. Other news includes new studies examining the psychedelic role in treating pain and cocaine addiction, as well as the massive growth in psychedelic business deals since 2019.
Baby Boomers Turn to Psychedelics for Renewed Perspective on Life and Mortality
As originally reported by Market Watch, the legal landscape around psychedelics like psilocybin evolves, a growing number of baby boomers are turning to these substances for introspection and a renewed understanding of life and mortality. This trend was highlighted by the experience of Jim Carroccio, a 71-year-old retiree from Arizona, who participated in Oregon’s state-legal regulated psilocybin program. Such experiences, often costing thousands of dollars, are increasingly appealing to older adults seeking spiritual exploration and a deeper sense of meaning in their later years.
Psychedelics, including psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms), have been garnering positive attention for their potential to treat various mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety. Particularly impactful are the experiences of cancer patients in clinical trials, who have reported profound feelings of love, forgiveness, and resolution of lifelong traumas after psilocybin-assisted therapy, dramatically altering their outlook on life.
This interest in psychedelics is not confined to those with serious illnesses. As baby boomers and other generations face their mortality, whether with anxiety or curiosity, the prospect of a transformative psychedelic experience becomes an attractive option for many. In Oregon, where psilocybin use has been legalized for adults since January 1, 2023, this shift is more pronounced. Despite psilocybin’s classification as a Schedule I substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration, its therapeutic potential is being explored in clinical trials, offering new avenues for those seeking alternative approaches to mental wellness and a deeper connection with their existential journey.
Promising Results from Psilocybin Clinical Trial for Bipolar II Depression
Compass Pathways plc, a biotechnology company focused on mental health innovation, announced a significant breakthrough in the treatment of bipolar II depression. Published in JAMA Psychiatry, their study reveals the potential of COMP360 psilocybin treatment for individuals with treatment-resistant bipolar type II disorder (characterized by depressive phases normally followed by a hypomanic period). Conducted by Dr. Scott Aaronson at Sheppard Pratt, Baltimore, and funded by Compass, this study is believed to be the first-ever psilocybin clinical trial for bipolar II depression.
The research involved administering a single 25mg dose of COMP360 psilocybin to participants with treatment-resistant bipolar II. The primary measure of success was the change in the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) total score from baseline to week 3. Results were encouraging: all 15 participants showed reduced MADRS scores, with an average reduction of 24.0 points at week 3. Notably, 12 participants met the response criteria, and 11 achieved remission.
Significantly, the study reported no increase in suicidality scores, manic symptoms, or unexpected adverse events, including during the dosing sessions. The most common side effect was a transient headache reported by four participants. Dr. Aaronson emphasized the need for further research to validate these findings in larger studies, acknowledging the groundbreaking nature of this initial study.
Dr. Guy Goodwin, Chief Medical Officer at Compass Pathways, highlighted the challenges of treating bipolar II, particularly when conventional medications fail to provide adequate relief. The positive early signals from the COMP360 psilocybin trial offer hope for those living with this challenging condition, underscoring Compass Pathways’ commitment to finding effective solutions for those with limited treatment options.
Psychedelic Industry Sees 500% Increase in Business Activity Since 2019
A story originally run by the Green Market Report details how the psychedelics industry has witnessed a remarkable 500% increase in business deals, partnerships, and mergers over the past four years, signaling a significant surge in the sector’s growth and interest. This upsurge, as reported by the GlobalData Pharma Intelligence Center Deals Database and covered by Pharmaceutical Times, reflects the burgeoning interest and potential in the field of psychedelic research and development.
The escalation in industry activity encompasses over 40 significant business deals involving companies not only focused on psilocybin but also exploring other psychedelics like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and midomafetamine (an MDMA analog). A notable example is the co-development partnership between Clearmind Medicine, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the Israel-based SciSparc.
Despite the lack of formally approved pharmaceutical psychedelic treatments for medical conditions like clinical depression, numerous treatment regimes are currently under development, with many aiming for approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This approval is a critical step towards enabling widespread production and sales.
The United States is at the forefront of this global movement, leading the way with 63 privately held biotech firms engaged in researching psychedelic medical applications. Canada and the United Kingdom follow closely, with 29 and 15 psychedelic firms, respectively. This shift towards mainstream legitimacy and acceptance is a driving force behind the exponential increase in dealmaking within the psychedelics sector.
Exploring LSD and Psilocybin for Chronic Nociplastic Pain Management
A new study published in the South African Journal of Medicine explores the potential of LSD and psilocybin as a treatment for chronic nociplastic pain. The disorder affects a significant portion of the global population and is a condition characterized by altered sensory and emotional processing in the central and peripheral nervous systems. This type of pain, often associated with other diseases, is not directly attributable to tissue damage, inflammation, or nerve damage, making it distinct from more common pain disorders. The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) redefined pain in 2020, emphasizing its subjective nature as an “unpleasant sensory and emotional experience.” This new definition highlights the importance of understanding pain from the perspective of those suffering and acknowledging the biopsychosocial (affected by social and physical stimuli) aspects of the experience.
The term “nociplastic pain” was introduced in 2016 to describe chronic pain conditions resulting from changes in how the nervous system processes sensory and emotional stimuli. This type of pain is often intertwined with mental health disorders, as evidenced by significant overlaps in the neuroplastic changes observed in chronic pain and major depressive disorder (MDD). Studies indicate a high prevalence of chronic pain in people with MDD, suggesting shared links to serotonin and noradrenaline’s roles in pain and mood processing. The complexity of chronic pain poses considerable challenges in treatment, often leading to insufficient relief and a multitude of side effects from traditional medications.
In light of these challenges, recent research is exploring the potential of classic psychedelic agents like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and psilocybin in managing chronic nociplastic pain. These substances, acting on the 5-HT2A receptor (one of the receptors most associated with serotonin), may offer pain-relieving effects and mood enhancement. Neuroimaging studies and small-scale interventions suggest that psychedelics could improve chronic pain treatment on both biological and psychological levels. This approach moves beyond traditional physiological interventions, incorporating the experiential aspect of pain as an embodied experience within a specific psychosocial environment. As such, classic psychedelics might offer a novel and promising direction in the comprehensive treatment of chronic pain.
Clearmind Medicine’s Breakthrough in Cocaine Addiction Treatment with Psychedelic Molecule MEAI
Clearmind Medicine Inc., a biotechnology company specializing in psychedelic-derived therapeutics, announced significant progress in treating cocaine addiction using its novel psychedelic molecule,5-methoxy-2-aminoindane (MEAI). This development represents a major advancement in addiction treatment, especially for cocaine addiction, which has long lacked a dedicated treatment.
Led by Professor Gal Yadid at the Gonda Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center at Bar Ilan University in Israel, the research team conducted trials demonstrating MEAI’s potential in reducing cocaine-induced craving. These trials build on earlier experiments with rats, which showed a marked decrease in cocaine craving following treatment with MEAI. Dr. Adi Zuloff-Shani, CEO of Clearmind Medicine, highlighted the promising results of these pre-clinical trials, suggesting a paradigm shift in addressing the complex challenge of cocaine addiction.
The success of MEAI in treating cocaine addiction could be transformative on a global scale, offering new hope to millions affected by this addiction. Clearmind Medicine filed a patent application in the U.S. for this innovative approach in a groundbreaking move. This development is part of Clearmind’s collaboration with SciSparc Ltd., a specialty clinical-stage pharmaceutical company. The collaboration focuses on combining Clearmind’s proprietary psychedelic treatment for addiction, MEAI, with SciSparc’s CannAmide™.
Clearmind Medicine’s advancement in the field of psychedelic medicine underlines the company’s dedication to exploring and utilizing the potential of psychedelic compounds in medical treatment. This achievement marks a significant milestone in the ongoing efforts to find effective treatments for addiction and further solidifies Clearmind Medicine’s position as a pioneer in psychedelic research and therapeutic development.
Denver Psilocybin Co-Op in Legal Gray Area Draws Attention from Authorities
Westword details how a psilocybin co-op in Denver, operating from a studio at 800 West 8th Avenue, has caught the attention of the Denver District Attorney due to its unique approach to offering psilocybin mushrooms. The co-op, run by Darren Lyman, provides support services related to natural medicine, with a focus on the therapeutic potential of psilocybin for mental health issues like anxiety, addiction, depression, and traumatic stress. For a typical fee of $30, clients receive a consultation and four grams of mushrooms at no additional cost, with more mushrooms offered for additional support payment.
Lyman advertises his services openly, citing Colorado’s Natural Medicine Health Act, or Proposition 122, as his legal basis. This act, approved in November 2022, decriminalized certain psychedelics and legalized medical psilocybin in Colorado. However, Denver DA Beth McCann and local psychedelics advocates question Lyman’s interpretation of the law, suggesting that his operation may circumvent regulatory structures.
Under current law, adults can cultivate, possess, and share psilocybin mushrooms and certain other psychedelics, but commercial production facilities and supervised use sites require state licensing, which is expected to be available in the next few years. Lyman insists he’s selling services, not psilocybin itself. Legal experts and psychedelics advocates acknowledge the ambiguity in the law, particularly regarding the provision of psychedelics in the context of spiritual guidance or counseling, where the substance itself must be free, but charges for harm-reduction or support services are allowed.
Psilocybin board member Sean McAllister, a cannabis and psychedelics attorney, notes that while charging for harm-reduction services is permissible, advertising or implying the sale of magic mushrooms might violate the law. The Denver Psilocybin Mushroom Policy Review Panel, along with other experts, awaits further clarification from the Colorado Legislature and state regulatory agencies on the permitted and prohibited retail activities surrounding psychedelics.
In the meantime, the Denver psilocybin board is focusing on educational efforts and public awareness about the evolving psychedelics laws in Colorado, working alongside the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) to develop harm-reduction training programs for first responders. As Denver and Colorado navigate these new legal landscapes, authorities, and local governments are deliberating over appropriate zoning and regulations for businesses involved in the emerging psychedelics sector.
Does psychedelic-medicine adoption by baby boomers represent another massive shift in public perception? The stories covered this week highlight the rapid growth and equally rapid commercialization of psychedelic medicine in the U.S. and abroad. In Colorado, controversial psychedelic businesses are beginning to spread, possibly putting the state’s nascent industry at risk. As we continue forward with the psychedelic movement, important questions remain unanswered. Is there a place for well-informed, adult recreational use of psychedelics, or are we facing an almost entirely clinical future? Only time, and science, will tell.
This material is not intended as a replacement or substitute for any legal or medical advice. Always consult a medical professional about your health needs. Psychedelics are widely illegal in the United States, and readers should always be informed about local, state, and federal regulations regarding psychedelics or other drugs.
- Rosner, A. (n.d.). Baby boomers, contemplating their mortality, are taking psychedelics again. MarketWatch. Retrieved December 7, 2023, from https://www.marketwatch.com/story/baby-boomers-contemplating-their-mortality-are-taking-psychedelics-again-262c5d11
- Study results of psilocybin treatment in bipolar II depression published in JAMA Psychiatry | Compass Pathways. (n.d.). Https://Compasspathways.com/. Retrieved December 7, 2023, from https://compasspathways.com/study-results-of-psilocybin-treatment-in-bipolar-ii-depression-published-in-jama-psychiatry/
- Walt, J. V. D., & Parker, R. (2023). LSD and psilocybin for chronic nociplastic pain: A narrative review of the literature supporting the use of classic psychedelic agents in chronic pain. South African Medical Journal, 113(11), 22–26. https://doi.org/10.7196/SAMJ.2023.v113i11.814
- Schroyer, J. (2023, December 6). Psychedelic Deals, Partnerships Skyrocket 500% Since 2019. Green Market Report. https://www.greenmarketreport.com/psychedelic-deals-partnerships-skyrocket-500-since-2019/
- Inc, C. M. (2023, December 5). Clearmind Medicine Achieved Positive Results in Cocaine Addiction Treatment. GlobeNewswire News Room. https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2023/12/05/2790952/0/en/Clearmind-Medicine-Achieved-Positive-Results-in-Cocaine-Addiction-Treatment.html
- Mitchell, T. (n.d.). Magic Mushroom Co-Op Catches District Attorney’s Attention. Westword. Retrieved December 7, 2023, from https://www.westword.com/marijuana/denver-psilocybin-mushroom-dispensary-has-district-attorneys-attention-18390693