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Psychedelic Research Coalitions Start to Emerge As FDA Approval Looms

“Many people hear the word psychedelics and think ‘acid trips from the 60’s’… but that is not what we are talking about.” 

Those are the words that Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex.) used to describe psychedelics on the floor of the House of Representatives. 

Those words have been backed with the pen. Congress has sought to increase access for veterans, provide natural treatments for terminally ill patients and taken steps to figure out how kratom can help ease the stress of America’s opioid epidemic

It’s a new era for psychedelics in the United States, and all of these measures hint at the same mechanism for continuing the forward momentum: Public/private partnerships to examine how natural medicine fits into modern healthcare. 

And we’re already starting to see exactly how those partnerships can propel policy and push psychedelics even more into the mainstream. 

Advances in both legislation and the stigma surrounding psychedelic treatment options is in the midst of a seismic shift, including a recent resurgence around an academic approach to natural medicine. At the same time, private sector research is tossing fuel on the fire by advancing research trials, with both the private and public sectors bracing for a boom in research and application of psychedelics as a medical treatment.

When most people think of the Big Ten Conference, full stadiums on Saturday afternoons are the first thing that comes to mind. But beyond the athletic arrangements of the conference, the Big Ten Academic Alliance bills itself as the “nation’s preeminent model for effective collaboration among research universities.” 

Which is why it’s such a ‘Big’ deal that one of its members has turned their attention to psychedelics. 

The Ohio State University recently approved a proposal to create the Center for Psychedelic Drug Research and Education within the College of Social Work that was launched with two goals in mind, according to a release from the university. From a research perspective, CPDRE has a stated goal of “focusing research on populations and psychological disorders underrepresented in current studies.” Beyond that, the center is also aiming to take an interdisciplinary approach to empowering future scholars and clinicians. 

An example of that is taking place this weekend. 

In September of 2012, the University of Pennsylvania hosted “Psychedemia”, which was dubbed as “the first academic conference funded by an American university to explicitly focus on the risks and benefits of psychedelic experience.” This weekend, CPDRE is bringing back the conference for the first time in ten years, in an attempt to “provide a rigorous interdisciplinary symposium for exchanging ideas, evaluating dominant perspectives, and critiquing current approaches to developing social frameworks for psychedelic use.” 

The conference website makes it clear what the organizers feel is at stake: “Given that psychedelic experiences defy disciplinary bounds, psychedelic studies must develop with diverse academic perspectives in conversation, through the co-creation of theory, policy, and methodology. As the field breaks into mainstream acceptance, the psychedelic medical market is projected to reach a valuation of $10.75 billion by 2027.”

Beyond the ‘public’ half of the research machine, a number of ‘private’ players are looking to be the first trailblazers to turn well-meaning conversation and research into clinical results. 

As an industry, psychedelic research received a boost from Wall Street of all places after banking giant Morgan Stanley issued a positive forecast for psychedelics in a first-of-its-kind research report released earlier this month. The report acknowledges that psychedelics could offer hope as an area of innovation in how mental health issues are treated, and comes as part of a wave of positive movement for the psychedelic-adjacent companies already trading in American markets. The only red flag mentioned was the potential roadblock in the form of the Food and Drug Administration. 

While questions remain about how quickly the FDA may move on the matter, there are others who are already making strides toward breaking down the barrier of approval.  

In Crenshaw’s plea to congress, he referenced a clinical trial completed by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies that recently completed a Phase 3 Trial to study how MDMA-assisted therapy helped patients with PTSD. In the trials, 67 percent of patients that underwent at least three therapy sessions fell into the “lost PTSD diagnosis” category, and 88 experienced a reduction in symptoms. 

With the Phase 3 Trial yielding positive results, MAPS is “hopeful” for FDA approval in 2023. 

Those hopes were boosted when a letter was revealed that signaled the Biden administration was bracing for FDA approval for psychedelics. In the wake of that correspondence, and on the heels of a successful Phase 3 Trial, MAPS founder and executive director Rich Doblin said the time has come to take significant strides forward in the field of psychedelic treatment options. 

According to a release from his organization, Doblin said the time has come for federal grant money to join together with philanthropic efforts in an attempt to “prioritize public benefit over profit.” In his eyes, Doblin said the reduction of “red tape” around psychedelics could lead to a “health care revolution” in how certain mental illnesses are treated in America. 

“For decades, we have been making the case for what the Administration is now acknowledging: psychedelic-assisted therapies may become a key in addressing the most urgent mental health challenges of our time and reducing needless suffering.”

Author

  • Patrick Radigan is a recovering sports journalist who had his eyes opened to the world of drug policy reform while covering a court case of a cannabis consultant found not guilty on trumped up possession charges. Since that case, he's covered legalization issues in multiple states, monitored tribal movements in the legal cannabis space and is now turning his attention to the wide spectrum of legalization and policy matters surrounding natural medicine alternatives. Patrick has written stories for newsprint, shot video for television news and got his start covering biofuels and soil science for a climate magazine. Originally from South Dakota, Pat earned a pair of journalism degrees from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and now resides in Colorado.