Dr. Michael Verbora earned an MBA from the Odette School of Business in 2009 and an M.D. from Schulich School of Medicine at Western University in 2013, before entering Family Practice residency at the University of Toronto. To date he has completed over 5,000 cannabinoid therapy consultations, and is a global medical expert in the field of cannabinoid therapy. Dr. Verbora is the medical director of Field Trip Health a psychedelic therapy company focused on providing space for drug assisted therapy and conducting research on emerging psychedelic therapies.
What do you believe is the most important thing for people to understand about the future of psychedelics as medicine?
There is immense promise and literature to date that is transformational in our approach to managing mental health issues. We are on the verge of potentially eliminating the need to take a medication every single day for the rest of ones life with numerous side effects. We may be able to replace this model of passive suppression of symptoms into one of active engagement in healing. The future is likely to be a once a year (or every few years even) model, with a mystical experience, that cuts through our own cognitive barriers and immediately shining a light on what needs to happen in our lives to transform our depressed/anxious minds into inspired, living and thriving life. To be able to just take a medicine once and get potentially 1-5 years of benefit is transformational and powerful. Its not longer, this medicine and doctor will make me better, but rather this medicine with therapy will give me the power I need to be my own healer. Empowering people to heal themselves will create a far healthier society that can propagate into social and systemic changes for the wellbeing of all of humanity.
What made you personally want to get involved in advancing the accessibility of psychedelic treatments?
Working with cannabis taught me the value of plant therapy for healing. It taught me we can use psychoactive drugs very safely to help people with suffering. This was where I started in the midst of an opioid crisis. However, we need more data and research, period. We need to convince the masses that many drugs that have been labelled as harmful and toxic, are actually the opposite - therapeutic and healing. To do this we need to conduct pharma grade research and let the science lead the discussion. The current model of a pill for every problem is leaving many people behind who do not get benefit. Others who get benefits get other side effects for which they need other medications which again have different side effects. I believe each of us has the ability to be our own healer and psychedelic drugs shine a light as to what an individual must do to access their own healing potential. If I can be a guide to others path of healing I will have a very meaningful and purposeful life.
How would you currently describe the understanding of psychedelics amongst the general medical community, and what do you believe the most effective method of improving this understanding would be?
Physicians have zero training on psychedelics as a substance. This also goes with cannabis where the only lecture is typically 20-30 minutes long and only on the harms of cannabis. We have a long way to go with respect to educating. I have been inspired though that up and coming physicians have started medical interest groups in psychedelics and are building communities to educate themselves and the profession. Longterm this will influence behaviors and more acceptance for the healing properties of psychedelics. Again more science is needed and as it becomes available it should trickle down into the medical education system.
In addition to being the Medical Director of Field Trip, you are also CMO at Aleafia Health. What are the key medical differences that must be considered between cannabis and psychedelics?
I consider THC to be a very mild psychedelic. It works on a fascinating system in the body, the endocannabinoid system, which I call the "master regulator". Cannabis is much more of a longterm daily therapy for those with chronic issues. Its healing effects are mostly temporary but with zero toxicity which is nice for a change. Via anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety and muscle relaxing properties it has the ability to shift people into a more relaxed state we call parasympathetic activation. The body turns on healing mechanisms when in a parasympathetic tone. Unfortunately, my clinical and personal experiences in life have taught me the vast majority of us live in sympathetic overdrive - a constant fight or flight anxious state. This state of consciousness does not permit the body to activate healing mechanisms. Psychedelic therapies such as psilocybin, ketamine or MDMA rapidly change our consciousness, awareness and shift immediately into parasympathetic activation. So in many ways they are targeting the same underlying biological mechanisms however cannabis is slowly changing gears while psychedelics are petal to the metal rapid changes.
How do you view the commercialization and the role of business within psychedelics?
I think investment in this space is necessary to help us discover the science behind the mechanisms of different psychedelic drugs. The pharmaceutical industry is one of the most profitable in the world and most well capitalized industry. It is going to take similar capitalization and coordinated efforts if we want to replace many pharmaceuticals with psychedelic therapies. I am however cognizant, and now more than ever with our social issues globally, see the dire need for changes in priorities for businesses and corporations. I am proud to be a part of FieldTrip Health which is a B-corp, where we not only value profits for our investors but weigh equally people and planet. I am an advocate for modern social business models and hence the great fit for me personally with FieldTrip Health.
Fast forward five years. What medical treatments do you predict Field Trip will be offering in North America and how will the company separate itself from competitors?
We have set out from day one to have the very best individuals in the medical space contributing to our medical protocols and program development. We take this same passion in program design to clinic design, with a state of the art setting we feel confident will be proven to enhance the effects of the therapy we provide. We also extend this into digital offerings to maximize accessibility and continual monitoring. We understand its important to check in as liberation from anxiety and depression may not last forever. Patients will know we are always there for them. I feel confident FieldTrip with be the single best brand for a community of healers internationally. We will develop cutting edge content, research and clinic offerings. In the future individuals will be able to self direct themselves to any of our clinics and choose form a menu of scientifically proven drug plus therapy combinations and feel confident that the experience we provide them will be the best investment they can make in their health and wellness.