This week’s Psychedelic News roundup covers the therapeutic potential of psychedelics. As well as significant attention from both the scientific community and the general public. As the stigma surrounding these substances begins to fade, groundbreaking research emerges, revealing the profound impact psychedelics can have on various mental health conditions. Leading the charge in this innovative field is COMPASS Pathways PLC, a biotechnology firm that has recently unveiled compelling findings from a study on the use of psilocybin in treating anorexia nervosa. Other updates include new ballot initiatives in California, Congressional support for psychedelics, and the personal journey of a U.S. military veteran who explored psychedelics for his mental health.
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COMPASS Pathways Announces Results from Psilocybin for Anorexia Study
COMPASS Pathways PLC, a biotechnology firm focused on advancing patient access to evidence-based mental health innovations, has announced the publication of a study in Nature Medicine highlighting the potential of COMP360 psilocybin treatment for anorexia nervosa. This research, believed to be the first of its kind, was led by Drs. Walter Kaye and Stephanie Knatz Peck from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine. The study assessed the safety, efficacy, and tolerability of a single 25mg dose of COMP360 psilocybin, combined with psychological support, in female patients with anorexia nervosa. The findings revealed that 40% of the participants experienced significant reductions in eating disorder symptoms three months post-treatment. Additionally, the psilocybin experience was deemed meaningful by the participants, with 90% feeling more positive about life, 80% ranking the experience among the top five most meaningful events of their lives, and 70% noting a shift in personal identity and overall quality of life.
- 40% of participants experienced a clinically significant reduction in eating disorder symptoms three months after treatment.
- Participants reported significant reductions in concerns related to body shape and weight.
- The body mass index (BMI) increased for half of the participants at three months, though the change was not statistically significant.
- 90% of participants found the psilocybin experience meaningful, with 80% ranking it among their life’s top five most meaningful experiences. Additionally, 70% reported a shift in personal identity and overall quality of life.
- The treatment was well-tolerated, with minor and short-lived side effects like headaches, fatigue, and nausea. However, two cases of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) were observed, which were believed to be due to prolonged fasting on the dosing day, a common practice with psilocybin use.
Dr. Guy Goodwin, Chief Medical Officer at COMPASS Pathways, emphasized the urgent need for new treatment options for individuals with anorexia nervosa. He stated that the study offers promising preliminary evidence that COMP360 psilocybin treatment could benefit those struggling with this challenging condition. The company plans to delve deeper into these findings with a more extensive Phase II study. Dr. Kaye expressed his satisfaction with conducting one of the pioneering studies on psilocybin treatment for anorexia nervosa and its publication in a renowned peer-reviewed journal. He hopes this initial research will pave the way for improved treatment options for patients with this hard-to-treat condition.
Dr. Knatz Peck highlighted the lack of proven treatments to address the core symptoms of anorexia. Even after weight stabilization, many individuals with anorexia continue to grapple with severe psychological symptoms, increasing their risk of relapse and impacting their quality of life. The study’s findings suggest that a subset of participants experienced significant improvements in their eating disorder symptoms. Dr. Knatz Peck expressed hope that this research would provide a foundation for developing better strategies to address the psychological aspects of anorexia from within.(1)
California Ballot Initiative Would Set Aside $5 Billion In Funding for Psychedelics Research
As reported by Marijuana Moment, a new initiative has been officially proposed for California’s 2024 ballot that aims to establish a $5 billion state agency dedicated to funding and promoting research on psychedelics. This research aims to expedite the federal legalization of substances such as psilocybin and ibogaine. While another campaign is currently gathering signatures to legalize psilocybin in the state, the “TREAT California Initiative” is distinct in its approach. Rather than directly legalizing or decriminalizing psychedelics, this initiative seeks to form the Treatment, Research, Education, Access, and Therapies (TREAT) Institute. This institute will explore the potential therapeutic benefits of psychedelics in treating severe mental health issues, including depression and addiction.
The TREAT Institute is envisioned as an innovative and efficient entity that will offer a steady funding source. The initiative does not aim for direct decriminalization or legalization. Instead, it seeks to establish a comprehensive psychedelic ecosystem to revolutionize mental healthcare. The ultimate objective is to attain Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, making these therapeutic substances accessible to all and potentially covered by health insurance. The institute plans to allocate $500 million annually for a decade, sourced from government agency revenue bonds. This funding will support grants and loans for psychedelic research, with the institute retaining intellectual property rights for the outcomes. Once the FDA approves psilocybin and MDMA for therapeutic use, the agency will also help establish care programs in California.
Deb Hubers, COO of TREAT, mentioned that the campaign has engaged with leaders from the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and has also liaised with advocates in Oregon, where a measure legalizing psilocybin services was approved in 2020. The campaign’s immediate goal post-initiative filing is to raise $11 million to cover signature gathering and outreach expenses. Another campaign, Decriminalize California, is also working towards legalizing psilocybin, including its sale for adult use. Meanwhile, a bill led by Sen. Scott Wiener (D) is progressing in the legislature, aiming to legalize the possession and facilitation of certain entheogenic substances for adults.(2)
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Update: Congressional Lawmakers Insert New Funding for VA-Led Psychedelic Medicine into Appropriation Legislation
As reported by Marijuana Moment, legislators are coming together ahead of a significant House committee meeting. Bipartisan congressional lawmakers are advocating for an amendment to a spending bill that would promote research into the therapeutic potential of certain psychedelics—the amendment, proposed by Reps. Lou Correa (D-CA) and Jack Bergman (R-MI), are part of the appropriations legislation covering Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MilCon/VA). The lawmakers aim to encourage the VA to conduct large-scale studies on substances like psilocybin and MDMA, which have been designated as “breakthrough therapies” by the FDA. Both representatives are founding co-chairs of a congressional psychedelics caucus that supports research into entheogenic substances.
The Bergman-Correa legislation does not explicitly mention psychedelics. Instead, it increases and decreases funding in an unrelated part of the bill, a common tactic in appropriations legislation used by members who want to highlight key priorities without altering the legislative text. The proposal summary states that it aims to ensure the VA conducts large-scale studies into the efficacy of drugs with FDA-designated Breakthrough Therapy status to treat post-traumatic stress disorder through VA-administered drug-assisted therapy trials.
Correa and Bergman have actively promoted efforts to streamline studies to develop psychedelic-based therapies. They recently highlighted new guidance for researchers interested in exploring the subject, released by the FDA. The Rules Committee will also consider an amendment from Rep. Robert Garcia (D-CA) to end drug testing for marijuana for job applicants at certain federal agencies. Additionally, bipartisan congressional lawmakers aim to advance amendments allowing military veterans to receive medical cannabis recommendations from VA doctors through the MilCon/VA measure.(3)
New Study Aims to Investigate Psilocybin’s Potential to Help Loved Ones of Cancer Victims Cope with Grief
Coming to us from New Atlas, researchers are examining psilocybin’s potential to combat grief. The aftermath of losing a loved one to cancer can lead to prolonged grief, a condition that can be challenging to treat with conventional medication and therapy. This intense form of grief can persist for over a year, causing significant distress and impacting an individual’s daily functioning. In a pioneering move, a trial in Australia, the first since the country approved psychedelics for therapeutic use, will employ psilocybin to treat adults experiencing this prolonged grief.
Vanessa Beesley, an assistant professor at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane, highlighted the debilitating nature of prolonged grief, noting that it can leave individuals trapped in the initial stages of bereavement. The upcoming 15-week pilot trial will involve up to 15 participants who have experienced the loss of a loved one due to cancer. The treatment protocol includes three preparatory psychotherapy sessions before the psilocybin dosing, which will be administered under the supervision of a therapist and a nurse. Following the dosing, participants will engage in four additional therapy sessions to help process their psilocybin experience and address unresolved grief.
The dosing day will span approximately eight hours, during which participants will be continuously monitored in a private room equipped with a bed and supportive items like an eye mask and music curated for their experience. Dr. Stephen Parker, the trial’s psychiatrist, emphasized the significance of this trial, noting its potential to offer an alternative treatment for those who don’t respond to traditional mental health interventions. The primary objective of this trial is to assess the acceptability, safety, and potential benefits of this therapy, which will inform the design of larger studies to evaluate its efficacy in treating prolonged grief. The QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute is conducting the research.(4)
U.S. Military Veteran Uses Psilocybin to Treat Mental Health Problems
The Star Tribune interviews Stefan Egan, a U.S. Army veteran, facing severe challenges after his deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Struggling with the aftermath of being near multiple explosive detonations and grappling with the loss of colleagues, Egan experienced blackouts and dark thoughts. He was prescribed numerous medications that left him feeling detached. After a suicide attempt, Egan discovered therapeutic relief through psilocybin, commonly known as psychedelic mushrooms. This transformative experience changed his perspective on life, helping him overcome the debilitating effects of his trauma.
In Minnesota, voices like Egan’s are central to a growing debate about the potential legalization of psychedelic drugs for therapeutic purposes. A task force, established by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, will spend the next five months examining research on the therapeutic potential of drugs like LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, and MDMA. These substances, which the federal government has long prohibited, are now being considered for their potential to address severe mental health conditions, including addiction, depression, PTSD, and bipolar disorders. The task force’s recommendations could position Minnesota at the forefront of psychedelic medicine policy.
The push for psychedelic research and potential legalization is gaining momentum across the U.S. Last year, Colorado voters followed Oregon in decriminalizing these drugs and permitting their use. At the federal level, a bipartisan group of lawmakers advocates for research into psychedelic treatments for various disorders. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey recently directed the city’s police department to deprioritize enforcement against psychedelics. The conversation in Minnesota remains bipartisan, with both Republican and Democratic representatives participating in the task force alongside therapists and health policy experts. The task force’s findings are expected to be presented to lawmakers in February, shortly before the 2024 legislative session commences.(5)
The evolving landscape of psychedelic research is a testament to scientists, advocates, and patients’ dedication and curiosity. As we continue to uncover the myriad ways in which these substances can heal and transform lives, it becomes increasingly evident that we are on the cusp of a new era in mental health treatment. The pioneering work of organizations like COMPASS Pathways, coupled with the personal testimonies of individuals like Stefan Egan, underscores the profound potential of psychedelics. As more studies are conducted, and more voices join the chorus, the future of psychedelic medicine appears promising and transformative.
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.
- First clinical study results of psilocybin treatment in anorexia nervosa published in Nature Medicine | COMPASS Pathways. (n.d.). Https://Compasspathways.com/. Retrieved July 27, 2023, from https://compasspathways.com/first-clinical-study-results-psilocybin-treatment-anorexia-nervosa-published-nature-medicine/
- Jaeger, K. (2023, July 24). New California Ballot Initiative Would Create $5 Billion State Psychedelics Agency To Fund Research With Goal Of Therapeutic Access. Marijuana Moment. https://www.marijuanamoment.net/new-california-ballot-initiative-would-create-5-billion-state-psychedelics-agency-to-fund-research-with-goal-of-therapeutic-access/
- Jaeger, K. (2023, July 24). Bipartisan Congressional Lawmakers Promote Psychedelics Research Amendment To Spending Bill Ahead Of Key Committee Meeting. Marijuana Moment. https://www.marijuanamoment.net/bipartisan-congressional-lawmakers-promote-psychedelics-research-amendment-to-spending-bill-ahead-of-key-committee-meeting/
- https://newatlas.com/author/bronwyn-thompson. (2023, July 27). Landmark trial to treat grief from cancer loss with psychedelics. New Atlas. https://newatlas.com/medical/landmark-trial-treat-cancer-grief-psychedelics/
- Bierschbach, B., July 26, S. T., & Pm, 2023-3:38. (n.d.). This veteran used psychedelics to treat his PTSD. Now he wants Minnesota to legalize it as medicine. Star Tribune. https://m.startribune.com/veteran-used-psychedelics-to-treat-his-ptsd-now-he-wants-minnesota-to-legalize-it-as-medicine/600292525/?club=y&c=n&c mob=y&c=n