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HomeTechnologyMicrodosing with LSD, MDMA and Co: Psychedelic medicine is on the rise

Microdosing with LSD, MDMA and Co: Psychedelic medicine is on the rise

The psylocibin contained in magic mushrooms is loud latest scientific studies on the treatment of depression. (Image: Shutterstock / Microgen)

A miracle cure for more joie de vivre? Doesn’t exist yet. At present, people with mental illness usually have to take pills every day and often try different preparations – and even these sometimes don’t work as expected. At least so far. But there is a new hope: not a newly developed chemical, but an ancient active ingredient. The ancient Aztecs and even their ancestors knew and used it. It’s called psylocibin and occurs naturally in mushrooms called Psilocybe semilanceata or Psilocybe cubensis – better known as magic mushrooms.

Table of contents

  • Why is psychedelic medicine on the rise?
  • The hype about microdosing
  • Just a placebo effect?
  • The market potential for psychedelic medicine
  • Nixon was wrong, the hippies knew better
  • Spiritual experiences can heal

Why is psychedelic medicine on the rise?

More and more studies suggest that substances, which many know primarily as illegal drugs, have a downright powerful effect against diseases such as depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders or addictions. In addition to psilocybin, LSD, which has a very similar effect, is also very popular, as is the amphetamine derivative MDMA and the drug ketamine, which was actually developed as an anesthetic.

These substances work differently, they have in common that they are psychoactive. They influence perception and consciousness, can trigger hallucinations and, depending on the substance and dose, cause mild to very profound intoxication. According to some frequently cited works by psychopharmacologist David Nutt or psychologist Robert Gable, the potential for addiction and danger of MDMA is comparatively low and, for example, far below that of alcohol. LSD and psilocybin tend to do even better in these studies.

Your euphoria about this so-called “psychedelic medicine” let entrepreneurs like Christian Angermayer gives free rein: “We want to completely change the way we think about depression and heal people who suffer from it,” says the German investor and founder of Atai Life Sciences, which invests in research into new drugs. He believes the psychedelics can help people be happier. Starting with those who are so unhappy that doctors call it “depression” is logical, but this is just the beginning for him. And so he enthusiastically talks about his own mushroom trips – without any medical indication.

Atai founder Christian Angermayer on his trip experience

Before I report on my own experiences, I want to emphasize that psychedelics can only be used under competent – ideally medical or psychological – supervision should be taken. My biotech company Atai and its subsidiary Compass Pathways are working to make synthetic psilocybin and other psychedelics legal again as drugs under medical supervision. I do not believe that these are freely available. They are too powerful for that, and consumers could make mistakes when using them. I made my own experiences with a very competent supervisor in countries where psychedelics are already legal today.

My first mushroom trip was indescribable in the truest sense of the word and the best single experience of my life. The first was then supplemented by others and together they make the most significant overall experience I have ever had. You learn a lot about the really important things in life. It is difficult to put into words because it is a mystical, transcendent experience. I actually try to avoid terms like “God” because they mean different things to everyone, but it is difficult to get by without religious terminology. I would say you can see the meaning of existence in all its details. Consciousness is freed from all the conventions, demands and pressures from outside, society’s wishes for how one has to be. You recognize yourself in a pure, pure version. And such radical self-knowledge doesn’t always have to be fun, it can also be exhausting. Therefore, psychedelics are not at all suitable as a party drug, and I can only emphasize again that one should not have such an experience alone, but accompanied by a therapist.

I’m not at all about intoxication in the sense of excess, for example I don’t drink alcohol at all. A psychedelic trip is a journey into the self and it is also a kind of tabula rasa – the brain can then be better described, so to speak, with the positive aspects of life, of which there are so many. It’s just that most people have forgotten how to perceive them. That’s why I rarely do this, at most once a year, and only in a ceremonial setting with enough time in advance to get in the mood and enough time afterwards to process what I have learned and to integrate it into my life.

“The line between therapy, medical application, wellness and leisure is fine”, writes about Anne Philippi, founder of the platform The New Health Club. Her website speaks of a “new lifestyle” thanks to psychedelics. “Psychedelics advocates are not a homogeneous group,” says Adele Byrne, senior analyst at Prohibition Partners, a consultancy specializing in the medical cannabis and psychedelics market. “There are people who want to legalize them completely, others want to decriminalize them, others use them exclusively for medical purposes.”

There are certainly companies that deal with the non-medical use of the substances. Some offer courses, others organize retreats in the Netherlands, where “ceremonies” take place with the versions of the mushrooms containing psilocybin, which are legal there. There are “psychedelics coaches” who accompany wealthy customers on their trips for a lot of money. One advertises with the slogan “Stewarding Humanity 2.0”.

Humanity 2.0 – how far is that from Timothy Leary’s “reprogramming”? In the early 1960s, the psychology professor at Harvard University experimented with psychedelic substances and wanted to revolutionize psychiatry. But he let himself be carried away by his enthusiasm and thus ended up damaging his cause. Is it the entrepreneurs today who make the same mistake? “I’m not the next Timothy Leary,” emphasizes Atai founder Angermayer. “Leary recognized the potential of these substances, but then presented them as an alternative to society. I want to make psychedelics a part of society. ”He is not in favor of complete legalization, but in favor of decriminalization.

The hype about microdosing

Angermayer is not the only one. In the Netflix production “Have a Good Trip” stars like Carrie Fisher or Sarah Silverman tell an audience of millions about their LSD experiences. In fact, in California, where they were once so popular, psychedelics have been enjoying greater prestige again for some time. Mostly in tiny doses, however. So-called “microdosing”, i.e. the regular intake of not consciously noticeable amounts of LSD or psilocybin, has been very much in vogue in Silicon Valley for several years.

More and more companies are researching in the field of psychedelic medicine, developing preparations and exploring therapy methods. Psylocibin products are currently the most promising. According to analysts, the market will grow to nearly $ 7 billion by 2027. (Image: Shutterstock / Andre B)

An important advocate is the Psychologist James Fadiman, who worked on experiments with psychedelics as early as the 1960s and published the book “The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide” in 2011. Like the Internet – like the subreddit “r / microdosing” – his works are full of euphoric stories from people who report LSD doses between 5 and 15 micrograms or psilocybin doses of around three milligrams, which they usually take every few days , would make you more creative, more focused, in a better mood or less anxious.

Just a placebo effect? ​​

Beyond experience reports But there are hardly any studies on the question of whether microdosing over de n has a placebo effect. And those that do exist tend not to suggest a resounding effectiveness: In 2019, researchers at the University of Chicago carried out the first placebo-controlled study (Bershad et al.), In which the test subjects did not do better than the control group on a cognitive task . In another study (Yanakieva et al., 2018) there was no improvement in concentration, only the assessment of time periods was measurably improved.

“We hardly have any data and we don’t know what the long-term intake of such a substance does to the brain and psyche,” says Gerhard Gründer. He is professor of psychiatry at the Mannheim Central Institute for Mental Health (ZI). What is certain is that microdosing eliminates the intense psychedelic experience. “I am at least skeptical about whether this really explores the potential of these substances,” says the German scientist. Because it is precisely this experience that has the therapeutic effect. And that is exactly what psychedelic medicine is all about. Founder is currently working with colleagues at Charité Berlin on a larger study with 150 patients on the effectiveness of psylocibin in the treatment of depression, which was previously considered resistant to treatment. The fact that the study is still in the starting blocks is also due to the complex approval processes. It would be much easier if psilocybin were no longer banned – but that’s a long way to go.

The renaissance of the psychedelic Medicine is a study by Johns Hopkins University from 2009. Since then, more research has been carried out again, and now there is even the Center for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College in London. The results of the studies are impressive: in a study by Johns Hopkins (Griffiths et al., 2016), cancer patients suffering from severe anxiety and depression were given a drug capsule with psilocybin as part of a therapy session. Immediately afterwards the patients felt better, they were less afraid of death and spoke of a higher quality of life. And not only that: Even six months later, the vast majority were still measurably better.

The market potential for psychedelic medicine

Should it be confirmed that psychedelic therapy works better in many cases than the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) previously used as psychotropic drugs, that would be an enormous breakthrough. Because mental illnesses are extremely common. It is estimated that around 350 million people worldwide now suffer from depression. According to a prognosis by the World Health Organization, depression or mood disorders are now the second most common disease worldwide.

“Psychedelic-assisted therapies could cost society in the order of $ 350 billion in substance use disorders (opioids, alcohol, and nicotine), nearly $ 150 billion Related to depression in the US and $ 12.4 billion related to post-traumatic stress disorder in the US and EU alone, “writes Prohibition Partners in a report.

The market that is opening up for the treatment of these diseases is correspondingly large: The analysis company Data Bridge predicts that it will increase to a volume of almost seven billion US dollars by 2027. Dollar grows. In recent years, more and more companies have emerged that develop preparations and research therapy methods. The German non-profit organization Mind lists around 90 companies that belong to the “Psychedelic Industry”, many of which were only founded in 2019.

(Graphic: t3n)

Also because of the illegality of the substances, the market is repeatedly compared with that for medical cannabis. “I wouldn’t overstrain the comparison,” says Prohibition Partners analyst Byrne. The medical potential of psychedelics is significantly greater than that of cannabis. There is one thing the sector can definitely learn from the experience of the cannabis discussion: “It is important not to hype the topic too much. The cannabis market was, in a way, a victim of its own success. “

She emphasizes that, because at the moment a similar gold rush atmosphere can be felt as at the beginning of the cannabis boom. In particular, since the two Canadian companies Champignon Brands and Mindmed went public in March, psychedelic stocks have been an insider tip in relevant investor forums. We’re talking about the shroom boom. There is also considerable investment outside of the stock exchange: Atai Life Sciences, founded by Angermayer, is based in Berlin and is in turn the largest investor in the US company Compass Pathways, which only raised 80 million US dollars in April.

“We are still in the development phase,” says Florian Brand, CEO of Atai Life Sciences. The therapy method that Compass Pathways tests for so-called “Treatment-Resistant Depression”, ie a depression that does not respond to conventional treatment, has been given the status “Breakthrough Therapy” by the US FDA. The currently ongoing study is the largest of all times with medicinal psilocybin.

Market analyst Byrne assumes that psilocybin -based therapies will not be approved in the US until 2023 or 2024 at the earliest. The ultimate goal, says Atai manager Brand, is that such treatment will also be reimbursed by the health insurance company. However, it could take a lot longer before that happens. This also applies to most other forms of therapy.

Nixon was wrong, the hippies knew better

The question that arises in view of this promising study situation: Why only now? Scientists were barely allowed to do research with it for a long time. It has only recently become possible to conduct clinical studies with these substances again. LSD, psilocybin and MDMA are practically banned all over the world, in Germany they fall under the Narcotics Act and are neither “marketable” nor “prescribable”. Most people do not know these substances as drugs, but as illegal drugs.

“I have no doubt that a psychedelic experience can also be valuable for healthy people.”

The idea of ​​using LSD and psilocybin in the treatment of mental illness is not new. There was already a lot of research going on in the 1950s and 1960s. The effect of lysergic acid diethylamide was discovered by the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann in 1943. After developing and discarding the substance as a possible circulatory drug years earlier, he accidentally came into skin contact during an experiment, noticed the effect and continued researching it on himself . A few years later, LSD was marketed under the name Delysid by the pharmaceutical company Sandoz, which also sold psilocybin – both as drugs in the context of psychotherapy. As part of the “Harvard Psilocybin Project”, Timothy Leary caused a stir with his LSD experiments.

But outside of Laboratories, LSD also became a central element of the hippie movement as a drug. While MDMA, for example, makes you feel euphoric, alert, empathetic, and the happiness hormones it releases triggers the irrepressible desire in ravers to want to hug friends, LSD has a significantly different effect. It changes the perception quite massively in some cases. The optical hallucinations are famous because they inspired many artists to create brightly colored works.

US -President Richard Nixon called the psychologist and LSD fan Timothy Leary “the most dangerous man in America”. Many a book has been written about the duel and Leary has become an icon of the hippies. (Illustration: Steven L. Davis / Bill Minutaglio)

But the Changes are also cognitive. Fundamental insights, becoming one with nature, a new view of the world – authors and musicians described this effect, even the Beatles allegedly sang about LSD. In California it was distributed at happenings. And some scientists also dropped all restraint: psychologist Leary was ultimately convinced that the brain could be reprogrammed through the use of LSD, and that the world would be a better place if everyone were on acid. He was fired from Harvard and became a major figure on the hippie scene. His famous motto: “Turn on, tune in, drop out!”

The then US President Richard Nixon mentioned Leary once called “the most dangerous man in America” ​​according to the New York Times. Because the hippies and their message from the F For him, heaths were inextricably linked with LSD and marijuana, and so the US government declared the “War on Drugs”. In 1966, LSD was banned in the US and shortly afterwards in the rest of the world, and large-scale campaigns were used to explain to the population how bad the substances were and what – supposedly – devastating effects they could have on people. That was the temporary end of medical research with LSD and the almost identical psilocybin.

“The stigma is definitely that biggest problem for these forms of therapy, ”says analyst Byrne from management consultancy Prohibition Partners. “Getting away from the image that these substances have had since the 1960s and 1970s will be the greatest challenge for the sector.”

Spiritual experiences can heal

If you ask patients how they experienced their medically prescribed trip, they report that they see their problems with different eyes and suddenly feel again feel more at peace with the world. “Something in the brain is not physiologically corrected as with conventional antidepressants,” says founder. Processing what you have experienced is basically the more important part. “Many patients have such a fundamental spiritual experience that the disease is actually gone. That is what makes this form of therapy so special. ”

Despite these results, it is important for founders not to to fall into great euphoria. “I’m a scientist,” he says. “To claim that you would revolutionize the entire therapy of mental illnesses overnight or solve the problems of 300 million people simply by legalizing psilocybin is simply not serious,” says founder. “This is marketing.” He wants to be seen as someone who is researching a new, promising therapy. Not as someone who wants to legalize drugs.

The exuberant promises of salvation and miracles of the psychedelic gurus from Silicon Valley founders are clearly uncomfortable. “A lot of people just want to make money,” he says. And yet, for him too, LSD, psilocybin and related substances are more than just a new drug. “Anyone who seriously thinks about themselves and the right way through life will sooner or later come across the idea of ​​expanding consciousness,” he says. But the founder is also a realist: “I have no doubt that a psychedelic experience can also be valuable for healthy people,” he adds. “But that’s just the next step. Now the therapeutic application comes first. “

This article originally appeared in t3n 61 Here you can find the latest magazine issues and here our archive.

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Tyler Hromadka
Tyler is working as the Author at World Weekly News. He has a love for writing and have been writing for a few years now as a free-lancer.

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