What do you think is the most important thing to understand about the future of psychedelics?
The most important thing to understand about the future of psychedelics is that legal access is coming, and it will happen much sooner than most people expect. The reason for this is a few fold:
- From a therapeutic perspective in the treatment of mental health conditions like depression, anxiety and PTSD, psychedelics are orders of magnitude more effective, with less severe side effects, than most conventional treatments. Studies have shown that a single session of MDMA-enhanced psychotherapy was able to resolve all symptoms — essentially cure people — of PTSD in 70% of people with chronic, severe PTSD. Another study looking at psilocybin-enhanced psychotherapy shows that the antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects of a single session reduced or removed depression symptoms for up to 5 years. There are no treatment alternatives right now that show these kinds of results.
- There is an urgent need. Nearly 1/4 people will experience a mental health challenge in their lives. Existing antidepressants carry some pretty terrible side effects. The cost globally to economies of mental health conditions is expected to be close to $5 trillion dollars by 2023. All of these show that mental health is a major challenge right now and psychedelics seem to present the best therapeutic path forward.
- Cannabis has helped reframe people’s attitudes toward otherwise stigmatized medicines, which makes the social and political discussions around psychedelics much easier.
- Psychedelics are actually very well studied, having been quite extensively investigated in the 1950s and 1960s, and have a very high safety profile with low risk of addiction or overdose. Presently, there are 3 large scale clinical trials investigating psilocybin and MDMA that the FDA has granted “breakthrough treatment” designation too, reflecting the importance even bureaucrats are placing on psychedelics.
All of these factors suggest that psychedelics are going to be available — in a controlled, therapeutic setting admittedly — sooner than many expect.
What’s the most common misconception you hear about psychedelics?
Two big misconceptions about psychedelics exist:
(1) that there is a high risk of overdose and addiction, when in fact many psychedelics have a very low risk of overdose and a very low risk of addiction; and
(2) lingering fears about “bad trips”.
The existing thinking from key opinion leaders in the space suggests that there are no “bad trips” per se. Only “hard trips” and “easy trips”. Hard trips have the potential to become “bad trips” if not experienced in a safe setting with qualified professionals. But even the hardest trips can have therapeutic benefit and potential if managed effectively with proper care.
What would you say to potential investors considering plant medicines as a space to invest?
For investors considering an investment in plant-medicine, take a lesson from the recent experience in cannabis. There will be many groups who seek to make a “trade” on the next big thing, without building a business based on fundamentals with good operations and operators. Invest only in those companies who have a clear business plan, a strong team and an easily articulated vision for the future. Frankly, this is good advice for any investment, not just plant-based medicines.
What trend do you think is emerging in the world of psychedelics and what impact do you see that having?
The only trend that is really worth discussing is that legal access to therapeutic psychedelics is coming sooner than most expect. Whether that’s through FDA approval, ballot initiative like those contemplated in California and Oregon right now or through constitutional challenge in Canada, is to be determined. But it is coming. However, people should recognize that any approved access will likely require medical oversight; it will likely not be a adult usage/recreational program that permits take-home psychedelics. We think this is a good thing. Psychedelics, while generally safe and non-addictive, are powerful molecules and initial access should be controlled and monitored. The program being proposed in Oregon is the most thoughtful in our opinion. It requires that all psychedelic experiences be conducted in an approved setting, with medical oversight. However, it does not require the participant to have a clinical diagnosis. So anyone of legal age (subject to certain contraindications) can participate if they wish.
What made you personally want to get involved in this space?
Two experiences made me want to get involved in psychedelics. The first was my experience in the cannabis industry. We were the first group to bring medical and professional rigour to cannabis medicine through Canadian Cannabis Clinics, and we were truly moved by the impact that cannabis medicine had on improving the quality of life for so many of our patients. It showed us that once-stigmatized medicines have truly incredible therapeutic potential. Secondly, I’ve done a lot of my own personal coaching and therapy and when I learned about the potential of psychedelics to potentially accelerate the work that I’ve done over the last 15 years, and make it accessible to a greater number of people, it was an opportunity I very much wanted to pursue.
How do you see the current momentum in the space?
The momentum right now is palpable. As mentioned above, the need is real, the evidence quite strong, the safety profile well-known and the social mindset generally receptive overall.
What obstacles or challenges do you think psychedelics will need to overcome from an investment perspective?
The biggest challenge for anyone entering the space is that — notwithstanding all of my comments above — almost all psychedelic molecules are still scheduled. While legal access is coming — and coming sooner than most expect — anyone trying to build a business in the space needs to figure out a way to generate revenues in legal ways until the regulations change. It took us close to a year to develop the strategy that we ultimately chose to move forward with.