An Unusual Candidate is Pitching for Magic Mushrooms

Former Republican Governor of Texas, Rick “I really wanted to be your President” Perry, is throwing his political weight behind a bill presented by none other than a Democrat. This atypical support across the political divide is an effort to pass House Bill 1802, being presented by Rep. Alex Dominguez (D-Brownsville).

  • The bill would order a clinical study of using psilocybin to aid veterans with a multitude of mental health problems, mostly post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 
  • This study would be directed by the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) in partnership with a health sciences university (TBD) and a Veterans Affairs hospital. 

A bilateral effort to save lives.

Perry, who’s unquestionably been an anti-drug politician, still firmly opposes legalization for recreational uses. This unexpected support for psychedelics comes from his continued advocacy to provide relief for veterans. “[The proper treatment] in the right type of clinical setting will save a multitude of lives,” Perry said.

The case for the bill

  • Veterans are traveling abroad, seeking treatment in other countries, such as Mexico. 
  • The discussion around psychedelics remains a generational problem, tainted by the counterculture of the 1960s.
  • Politicians are more supportive than ever to consider science-based evidence.
  • The study would go through a “controlled process” where a number of safeguards will be in place to make sure nobody abuses it.

The bill was referred to the House Public Health Committee last month but has not received a hearing yet. If HB 1802 passes, the HHSC would have to submit quarterly progress reports on its study. A deadline by end of 2024 would require they deliver final findings to the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and House Speaker – as well as members in both chambers. 

New Study Pits Traditional Antidepressants Against Psilocybin

Thirty years after Prozac hit the market, drugs largely remain just variations using the same mechanisms. A new study is offering preliminary evidence that psilocybin is at least as effective as the ubiquitous drug type, selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in the treatment of depression. 

  • SSRIs like Prozac, citalopram, escitalopram and sertraline are often prescribed by doctors to treat depression and anxiety. 
  • A considerable number of people report these drugs stop working, don’t ever work, or cause severe side-effects such as loss of emotions, drowsiness, sexual dysfunction and dry mouth.
  • The small study involved 59 members and shows evidence that psychedelics could be a viable alternative treatment for depression, anxiety, substance misuse and other common conditions.
  • Psychedelics appear to actively improve people’s well-being and ability to feel pleasure, without such undesirable ramifications.
  • All 59 participants took either psilocybin or an SSRI and saw comparable reductions in their depressive symptoms, with fewer side-effects.
  • Members who took psilocybin performed considerably better by measures of work and social functioning, mental well-being and the ability to feel happy.
  • The trial was open to anyone with moderate-to-severe depression, not just those for whom all other treatments had failed.

Experts caution: this is just a small trial.

Guy Goodwin, professor of psychiatry at the University of Oxford, is warning not to jump on the miracle drug bandwagon just yet. 

  • He says the study “is under-powered and does not prove that psilocybin is a better treatment than standard treatment with escitalopram for major depression.”
  • The study’s co-author, Professor David Nutt, warns against self-medication. “We’re not sure the drug alone [without therapy] would have an intrinsic antidepressant effect.”

On the other hand, Dr. Carhart-Harris says that after psychedelic therapy, participants reported feeling “re-calibrated, reset like they haven’t for years” and “enjoying life.”

Medical Renaissance: The Convergence of Psychedelics and AI

New partnerships place value on the potential of psychedelics with the data-processing power of artificial intelligence (AI). The integration of these faculties could streamline pharmaceutical design and get drugs out to market faster.

  • Cognistx, a tech firm that designs AI business solutions, announced its partnership with MagicMed Industries to develop PsyAI™.
  • PsyAI™ will predict structure, manufacturing capabilities and pharmacological effects in an effort to accelerate the modernization of psychedelic medicines.
  • PsyAI™ will study the derivative compounds contained in MagicMed’s Psybrary™ to eliminate ineffective compounds which address brain and mental health conditions.
  • Using machine learning, this tool is intended to gather and assess data from bench studies, nonclinical studies and clinical trials. 

Mindcure is getting in on the action.

Mind Cure Health Inc. (CSE: MCUR) also announced this week that it’s entered into a partnership with Speak Ai Inc to generate valuable insights through machine learning. They aim to capture information that’s been difficult to collect using traditional methods in the course of therapy.

  • Speak Ai’s technology, iSTRYM will provide AI-driven results to help therapists identify the most efficient and efficacious outcomes for patients of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy.
  • Mindcure will be integrating the AI platform’s capabilities to drive data into iSTRYM, taking unstructured data, and creating structure and metrics for the platform integration.
  • Speak Ai aims to improve research efforts by combining audio, video, and text analysis with metadata in a single platform.
  • Using Speak Ai, Mind Cure will further develop proprietary, technology-based mental health solutions for patients and therapists

Are Psychedelics and 12-Step Programs Mutually Exclusive?

For some people, total abstinence is the answer, but it’s not universal. Established 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and the National Association of Sober Living (NSLA) haven’t officially recognized that. The result: some members feel alienated in their quest for sobriety, reports VICE.

One of the main pillars of fellowship groups is reducing the shame around addiction by fostering individual paths to sustained sobriety. Yet some are stigmatized against by those who are supposed to support them.

  • Bill Wilson, one of the co-founders of AA, experienced his “spiritual awakening” via psychedelics. This breakthrough cured him from severe alcoholism. 
  • A precedent for a culture of non-acceptance was set when Wilson had to step down from AA due to his taboo practice.
  • AA and NA have a proven record. Many members can vouch for being sober years on. 
  • For AA, psychedelics and psychiatric medications are just as unacceptable. Officially, the fellowship programs consider sobriety as 100% abstinence from any mood or mind-altering drug.

The definition of “being sober” is now put into question. 

For those members who experience recovery through the use of psychedelics, and choose to speak of it, the result is most often rejection from their community.

  • Kevin discovered his dedication to sobriety after a stay at a clinic in Mexico, where he took the psychedelic drug, ibogaine. After publicly sharing this experience, he was rejected from his 12-step program. He then co-founded Psychedelics in Recovery, a place for people in recovery to talk about their interest and recovery with psychedelics. 
  • Yadim worked a high-stress job in the fashion world and kept up by his daily use of meth, for 6 years. He followed treatment for his addiction at an in-patient facility and quickly relapsed after leaving. It was in Mexico that his experience with ibogaine got him completely sober, and has maintained with a combination of his psychedelic use plus support from recovery groups.
  • Max would end up in the hospital for suicidality every winter since he was 8 years old. When he brought up interest in psychedelics in his groups, his sponsor rejected him. Now that he uses psychedelics, he’s no longer suicidal.

Rigid cultures enforced by 12-step programs can be harmful to members on their unique path to sobriety. The issue is not whether one approach is better than the other, but whether they can be utilized in unison to benefit the afflicted, without rejection from their support communities.

Cybin Advances Closer to Human Clinical Trials

Cybin (NEO: CYBN) is pushing forward with new studies on novel formulations to address psychiatric disorders. Two proprietary molecules, CYB003 and CYB004, will soon move into the preclinical stage for their orally dissolving tablet (ODT) and inhaled formulations. 

  • These studies are part of the required investigational work for new FDA drug applications (INDs). The candidates could then advance into Phase 1 human clinical trials for specified psychiatric conditions.
  • The Cybin molecules have been designed to have a faster onset and shorter duration of action while retaining all of the clinical benefits of psilocybin and other psychedelic compounds.
  • The compounds are being developed using proprietary formulations and delivery systems, including an FDA-approved inhalation platform and ODT technology.

Both formulations are deuterated tryptamine development candidates, compounds in which the ordinary isotope of hydrogen has been replaced with deuterium. Tryptamines are a group of common organic molecules found in small doses within animals, plants, and fungi.

Labcorp Drug Development will serve as the pre-clinical research organization for Cybin. With these candidates, the company’s building a robust submission for regulatory bodies, including the FDA, Health Canada, and European Medical Association (EMA). 

Report Readout

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