Recent moves in the federal government have started to crack the door open to the potential of researching psychedelics for mental health therapy. Now, there’s a race to see who is going to walk through that door first.
In the span of nearly a month, both houses of Congress have included psychedelic research in their appropriations legislation as lawmakers attempt to take new approaches to solving the nation’s mental health crisis. Now, those cues from Congress have added momentum to the bandwagon of psychedelic research, with a variety of new treatment methods poised to push the possibility of psychedelics as a therapeutic option for a variety of conditions.
Momentum for psychedelic research started to pick up steam at the end of June, when the House Appropriations Committee issued a report to “assess opportunities for further private-public partnerships on researching the use of psychedelic drugs to treat post traumatic stress disorder and major depressive disorders.” The report also calls for a report about the feasibility of “dedicated research funding” for psychedelics, and specifically mentions the persistence of suicide among veterans as a motivation for “investigation psychedelic treatments.”
Those intentions were echoed in the Senate’s release of appropriations legislation. In an explanatory statement from the Senate Appropriations Committee, the committee encouraged the National Institute of Health to continue research funding for psychedelic treatments at the NIH Clinical Center. In addition, the committee extended that encouragement to the Food and Drug Administration to develop research collaborations “including academic researchers and medicine developers, to advance all forms of psychedelic research for therapeutic purposes.”
While there is still a long way to go to turn those intentions into legislation, the signaling from both houses of congress is that psychedelic treatment options are an avenue worth investing time, energy and dollars.
The momentum for psychedelic treatment options also received a jolt from the executive branch. Last month, the Biden administration’s feelings around the therapeutic potential of psilocybin and MDMA were revealed in correspondence with lawmakers.
All of these threads of legislation and communication carry one commonality: The promise of private-public partnerships to advance psychedelic therapy options. Now, we’re starting to see what that looks like as private psychedelics research is making major strides.
In June, a Phase 1 study from Entheon Biomedical Corp. was purchased for $1 million (Canadian) by Cybin Inc. in an attempt to accelerate the clinical development path of Cybin’s DMT treatments. This week, Unlimited Sciences announced its intention to embark on an observation research study to measure potential healing effects of ayahuasca for victims of trauma.
Matthew X. Lowe, the Research Director at Unlimited Sciences and principal investigator of the study said the time has come to move beyond DMT’s label as a Schedule I substance and to acknowledge the “robust reports and significant historical roots recognizing the vast therapeutic potential of ayahuasca.”
“Current therapeutic options may be insufficient to meet the increasing needs of a growing number of individuals presenting with symptoms of trauma,” he said. “Alternative treatment options are desperately needed, and ayahuasca has been identified as a candidate therapy for the treatment of trauma.”
The Unlimited Sciences study is set to focus on mostly female immigrants and refugees specifically in an attempt to address the “multilayered forms of distress” experienced during migration. Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris, a co-principal investigator, said this study is an alluring attempt to take a deeper look at how the intense effects of ayahuasca can treat severe trauma.
“DMT is a particularly intriguing psychedelic,” he said. “The visual vividness and depth of immersion produced by high doses of the substance seems to be on a scale above what is reported with more widely studied psychedelics such as psilocybin or ‘magic mushrooms.’”