Psychedelic Therapies

The Psychedelic Revolution

With a serious paradigm shift from western societies’ total reliance and trust in pharmaceuticals has come a new wave, not green, but this time iridescent and psychedelic in nature. Focusing largely on health and therapeutic benefits, The Psychedelic Renaissance is well and truly here. The real question is how long will it take for patients to finally access the psychedelic therapies that have been long overdue in the UK?

The history of psychedelic use for therapeutic, shamanic and recreational purposes has been documented for thousands of years. During the late 1950’s and certainly into the 1960’s there was a big push towards psychedelic therapy. ‘In the early 1950s, psychedelics,  particularly LSD, became widely used by psychologists and psychiatrists in research and clinical practice, with tens of thousands of patients estimated to have been treated with ‘psychedelic psychotherapy’ over a period of about 15 years’. The results were certainly promising. With some researchers claiming that they were on the verge of breakthroughs, with treatments relating to; addiction, depression and PTSD emerging.

Psychedelic Villains

The recreational use of psychedelic substances was unfortunately well and truly out of the box. This created a serious negative impact for the plight of legitimate researchers, hoping to heal the world with the power of plant medicines. Researchers and writers such as Timothy Leary heavily promoted the use of psychedelic drugs, believing that these special compounds should be experienced by the whole world and not just by those needing it for therapeutic purposes. Turn on, tune in, drop out was quickly becoming the favoured phrase of a growing subculture that was sweeping the nation.

Timothy Leary - Turn on, tune in, drop out

Timothy Leary's infamous quote - Turn on, tune in, drop out

Major drug reforms were the government's answer to the problem with the creation of a new classification of drugs, known as Schedule I Drugs. The campaign known as The War on Drugs, starting in 1969, by President Nixon added drugs such as LSD and psilocybin into the Schedule I of drugs, meaning they have no currently accepted medical use along with a high potential for abuse.  This almost immediately halted all research into psychedelic therapy, turning the researchers that wished to continue their studies into criminals overnight. Laboratories were shut down, often with no warning and decades of potential research was lost in an instant. 

A New Hope with a New Drug

The USA again paved the way for a new therapeutic hope, with a rather surprising drug taking centre stage: Ketamine. More commonly known as a dissociative party drug that sends users on a mind bending trip to an alternate reality, this would not be the first thought for a treatment against depression. ‘However, in the 2000s medical professionals began noticing and studying ketamines ability to rapidly alleviate depression and suicidal thoughts. Studies were done between 2000-2006, which ultimately showed Ketamine was a viable alternative treatment for depression.’ Whilst traditional anti depression treatments can take weeks to take effect, Ketamine, given through an IV drip or pump works almost immediately, making it extremely effective in time sensitive incidents. ‘Some women are even being given a single-dose infusion of ketamine to treat postpartum depression when psychotherapy and antidepressant medication doesn't ease the feelings of extreme hopelessness.’ This has led to many off label, private clinics opening, with at least six providers now open within the UK. The major problem as always with private treatments is patient access, with ketamine assisted therapy costing upwards of £6,000 for a full course.

Modern day treatments for modern day problems

With MP’s, such as Labour MP Charlotte Nichols calling for psilocybin to be declassified for research and therapeutic purposes, the wave has truly begun. On top of this, many celebrity personalities have now come forward with their own experiences of treating anxiety, depression and PTSD with psychedelic therapies.

The question really comes from whether traditional antidepressants actually work or instead, are just adding a plaster to a wound, without ever really healing the root cause of the issue causing the mental health problems. Psychedelics, along with a course of guided therapy have been shown to positively affect sufferers of PTSD, depression and anxiety with just a single session. Traditional medications can instead be life long, costly and still ineffective. 

Since Prozac was released over three decades ago, developments have largely been variations of the same drug. The NHS currently spends £650,000/day on pharmaceutical antidepressants, whereas psilocybin containing mushrooms can be grown at an extremely low cost, whilst actually benefiting the climate.

The big thing holding back new treatments worldwide, is a real lack of evidenced backed data. Without many peer reviewed trials, approved government treatments are unlikely to be funded. The real tragedy however is that decades of research has been lost to the same outdated, biassed laws that are still holding back the industry today.

Help is on the Horizon

Publicly listed funds are now emerging on the UK stock market, hoping to push forward the fight for psychedelic assisted therapies. Psych Capital Plc is a publicly listed incubation and pre-seed investment firm that deploys early stage capital while usually operating or supporting emerging companies in the UK’s and Europe’s psychedelic science and healthcare industry. The issue with these funds is that they are largely profit driven and don’t always have the patient's care at the forefront of their policy.

Cyanescens mushroom growing wild and free

Cyanescens mushrooms growing wild and free

Psychedelic therapy can technically be a cheap way of assisting those with treatment resistant mental health issues. The reality, however, is that therapies will come in the form of private clinics, charging unrealistic prices for most of the patients who need treatment the most. Just one full course of psychedelic treatment in Australia can set back patients up to $25,000, so until government approved schemes are funded it seems like these much needed therapies will still be reserved for the wealthy few who can afford them.