Medicinal, Therapeutic and Recreational Use of Psychedelics
Psychedelics should be a 360-degree package of experiential treatment. A therapeutic combination that goes beyond just drug administration. Treatment should include pre-care, aftercare, and building a strong community for full integration upon completion of therapy. This type of treatment is great for targeting acute mental health and addiction problems.
Paul Stamets argues that psychedelics, particularly mushrooms, shouldn’t be done in a clinical setting, but in a free, safe space, surrounded by nature for the ultimate connection of mind, body, soul, and spirit. “I would rather be looking at that view [showing a current backdrop of lake and mountains] than looking at the four walls of a hospital room with a bunch of clinicians running around with white jackets, taking all my biometrics and checking in with me, if I'm doing well.”
“The only safe therapeutic way to take psychedelics is in a medical model” is incorrect. Consider the centuries-long use of psychedelics in indigenous cultures. If you believe in psychedelics, everyone needs to come together to increase access to reduce suffering. The recreational-medical dichotomy is false. An experience can be medical, recreational, and spiritual all at the same time.
Studies at Johns Hopkins have shown that psychedelics can facilitate spiritual healing and neuroplasticity, which in turn can help to create new and better habits and lifestyle changes. At the end of the day, the effects go hand in hand and consumers should do psychedelics in the setting they feel most comfortable for best results.
Micro-dosing vs. Macro-dosing
Research is still lacking, and currently mostly survey-based. There is no official definition of what a “micro-dose” is as opposed to a “mini-dose” and this can vary from person to person, depending on individual biology. Factors like gender, age, and race are also factors to consider.
Microdosing is popular in the holistic space, though not given much credibility in medical and therapeutic psychedelics, often being discredited as the placebo effect. Holistic practitioners believe micro-dosing can also increase productivity and creativity, as well as helping with the peak state of flow when macro-dosing. In the holistic realm, micro-dosing is used to supplement macro-dosing, and the processes are believed to be mutually beneficial.
Results from unofficial tests of micro-dosing show that effects are small and consistent, but the true impact is yet to be determined.
Not considered a “classic” psychedelic by some experts, such as Jeremy Weate, because it doesn’t act with serotonin in the brain. While psilocybin and ketamine are data-backed compounds that can help with depression and PTSD, ibogaine has shown it is effective against addiction. In studies conducted by Dana Beal, small doses of Ibogaine have proven effective in combatting symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease, too.
According to Weate, ibogaine, when used to overcome stimulant-based drug addiction has proven more effective than for opiate-based addictions, as these addicts endure physical pain during withdrawal, causing a higher chance of relapse, or patients may withdraw from treatment altogether.
Due to lack of regulation, addiction treatments don’t follow safety protocols in most cases, being offered by retreats and pseudo-clinics and adding to a stigma of the dangers of psychedelics. Initiating specific guidelines and certifications is the key for these clinics and in order to truly help patients, a controlled medical environment with background checks and patients’ medical records is necessary.
Technology and Psychedelics
Technologies not seen in the cannabis space will be used in psychedelics. Increasing plasticity in the brain in a controlled setting (supported by tech such as VR), and then creating a therapeutic or learning environment can increase learning rates in users. It is still hard for VR to interpret experiences and to use mirror imaging, though this technology is plausible but not yet established, it shows great promise.
The current focus of companies such as Numinos is to enable and enhance psychedelic experiences through immersive technology. They aim to provide support throughout the psychedelic journey to provide the safest possible environment.
A big consideration for companies and users is data, which must be protected and encrypted, and users should be able to control their own data to give confidence that data is not being mined.
Medicalisation, Decriminalisation, Legalisation
The idea is that medicalization leads to decriminalization leads to legalization.
There are three pillars to be considered in all cases: access to the substance, quality of substance, price of substance.
The major concern is over-regulation. The right balance needs to be struck in order to serve a large population and enable access to as many people as possible. For example, even without an underlying medical condition, everyone should have access to psychedelic treatment, including for personal growth.
It’s about educating people to see how these substances can help them. A new school of thinking will lead the way to change the paradigm.
In Europe, the movement has yet to catch on, though certain countries have decriminalized possession and personal use of psilocybin, such as Portugal and Austria.
Key Steps for a Safe Psychedelic Experience
The synergy between drug action on the brain/mind being married with a positive therapeutic environment is key. The mental state of patients plays a pivotal role in the psychedelic experience.
Building relationships with patients/clients is important, experts in all fields (medical, recreational, and therapeutic) seem to agree. Protecting the experience as a whole, maintaining the safety of users by doing medical background checks, and being transparent regarding potential outcomes of the psychedelic experience are key to facilitating the safest possible experience.
According to Irie Selkirk, individual preparation with clients is crucial. Letting them know that they should stay grounded in their thoughts, for example, and being fully transparent about the process. Supervisors need to guide users into the right mindset and setting and be aware of the dosage administered. Long-lasting integration after the experience is vital, so you can make the most of the experience and have long term benefits and support.
“Bad trips” should be considered as “challenging experiences,” according to Robin Carhart-Harris, as they still provide insights and potentially offer beneficial outcomes after processing.
Covid-19 amplifies the need for regulatory advancement on psychedelics as there will be a further increase in mental health cases.
Global effects of COVID-19 call for different ways of very acute mental health issues being dealt with, particularly in first responders and people working in national health services. This will see a development in products and services being offered and more multi-pronged approaches to treat symptoms.
From an economic and business point of view, COVID-19 will impact metrics to help make better financial decisions and allocate capital towards impact-focused companies, while still meeting the bottom line that is required for investment, according to
From a holistic point of view, creating a routine, being mindful and present, and staying connected to people, are keys to maintain a balance in mind, body, and spirit.
Cannabis and Psychedelics
Psychedelics are the natural following to the cannabis boom, but psychedelics are a lot more complex because of regulations or lack thereof.
Cannabis has set parameters for a de-stigmatization framework that psychedelics can now leverage, as cannabis showed governments that these substances can generate tax revenue, and mental health and addiction levels can be lowered.
Similar to the cannabis space, brands with little credibility will try to enter the space to profit from the boom, so it’s important to distinguish between the serious players and scammers.
There is a crossover between these industries, as cannabis was also a gateway into psychedelic exploration for many of the panel experts. While good business practice tells us not to lose focus, innovative companies that are able to implement effective synergies can prove to be pioneers, which is what the industry needs.
Whole Plant vs. Synthetic
There are mixed opinions on synthesizing psychedelic drugs, particularly in regard to essentially eliminating certain plants’ rich histories in indigenous cultures and the ceremonial aspects of consumption, purely for a monetary profit.
Orthogonal Thinker’s CEO, Alex Speiser, says, “Psilly was developed to be true to the essence of psilocybin mushrooms and also to the legacy of psychedelic science. Our goal with any medicine that we develop is to come up with something that is better. By which I mean, easier to digest, less of a margin of error regarding therapeutic applications. And, you know, all these things are essential to look at, but we also want to maintain the heart of the whole plan. And this has always been and will continue to be the goal with r&d. And I think frankly, when you look at the intentionality of our molecules and you look at this approach yes I would definitively say, you can you can sense the difference.”
The main danger is a lack of thorough testing, which can only be done in the long-term regarding potential side effects and outcomes. There is a threat that big-pharma will step in to take over the industry, essentially killing the culture, while simultaneously providing potentially harmful psychedelic-based drugs that will negatively impact consumer opinion even further.
There is also a question of consumer image to consider. Will there be a divide between “classic” or “plant” consumers and “modern” or “synthetic” consumers? Considering that provenance and price play a big role, consumers may opt to grow their own plants, rather than buy into synthetics.
Going Mainstream & Communication
As corporations jump into the industry, there will be a shift from experiential psychedelics linked with rituals, such as Ayuhasca to a “pop a pill and have no experience” approach. This means bypassing the spiritual experience. Arguably, the “trip,” even if challenging, is part of a spiritual healing journey as much as a mental and physical one. Communicating this is vital to stay true to the movement.
Advocates of psychedelics need to step up and speak up. This statement was targeted towards well-known CEOs of Silicon Valley companies, as well as other “underground” users who are in the public eye. Normalizing use of psychedelics and championing their effectiveness and benefits are the key to negating the stigma.
Sports has a serious impact on public perception, as does military service, so athletes and veterans can help change the perception of psychedelics because people look up to these individuals and groups, as stated by former NHL player Riley Cote.
Cannabis was legalized because it was turned into a medicine. This is, arguably, the most efficient model of communication for psychedelics right now as well. The conversation needs to happen, but not just on a scientific, data-driven basis, also on a personal level of engagement. As with any brand strategy, it’s about targeting and knowing your audience and using the right voice and vehicle of communication.
There is a lot of discussion about keeping the movement “pure” and whether or not certain companies should be for-profit at all, rather than non-profit. Social capitalism and mutual benefit ratios are thrown into the mix, and it is a tricky balance between intention and monetization.
The heart of the cause, the “why” of these companies, should remain in helping as many people as possible and open up access to users. This requires research and testing, which in turn requires financing, for which there is no workaround.
Brands need to tell good stories, be in the news, create partnerships, have a media presence, and be top-of-the-mind. CSR should be used to build relationships with consumers, to create brand loyalty, and to connect with people, as this is at the heart of the psychedelic movement.