Links between PTSD and hallucinogens, psychedelic investing beyond pharmaceuticals, and supporting survivors
Plus: The State of Psychedelics and the Latest in Oregon
Happy Friday, and welcome back to The Microdose.
Links between PTSD and hallucinogens.
A decade ago, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) undertook an ambitious project: the largest-ever study on alcohol use and abuse and mental health in Americans. NIAAA surveyed over 36,000 U.S. adults, and the data they collected have been used by many researchers to understand links between mental health and substance abuse. In a recent study using the survey data, Toronto researchers found an interesting link between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and psychedelic drugs.
The paper, published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, took a close look at the nearly 2,000 adults in the NIAAA’s dataset who met the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) criteria for PTSD. They investigated factors that were correlated with both immediate-onset PTSD and delayed-onset PTSD. Previous studies have found that drinking alcohol after being exposed to trauma is correlated with delayed-onset PTSD. The Toronto researchers did not find that connection in this dataset, but they came away with a different fascinating correlation: people diagnosed with hallucinogen use disorder — the abuse of hallucinogens like LSD or psilocybin — had a decreased risk of delayed-onset PTSD, but an increased risk of immediate-onset PTSD. “The present findings may indicate that individuals with immediate-onset disorder expression are more likely to self-medicate their symptoms with hallucinogens,” the authors write. Though the causal factors at play here aren’t clear, it gives researchers something to mull over — and as Johns Hopkins researcher Manoj Doss points out on Twitter, it’s one of the few psychedelics studies in which participants are not biased towards positive or negative beliefs about psychedelics.
Allegations of psychedelic therapy abuse have started conversations within the psychedelics community about ethics and consent. Such discussions can hopefully reduce the likelihood of future harms, but how do people already harmed by the psychedelics community find healing?
In DoubleBlind, psychedelic integration facilitator Leia Friedwoman and psychedelic educator Katherine MacLean write about their efforts to support survivors of psychedelic therapy abuse and other harms through a peer group called Psychedelic Survivors. The group, formed in October 2021, hosts regular online listening circles and is working on designing a training program to provide peer support to survivors; eventually, MacLean and Friedwoman write, they hope the group takes on a non-hierarchical form. “We see the survivors themselves (with support as needed from dedicated community members) helping each other to find the best therapists, lawyers, and other resources to create the best lives for themselves moving into the future, despite the harms they have endured in the past,” they write.
There has never been a more exciting – or bewildering – time in the world of psychedelics. Don’t miss a beat.
A free newsletter from the U.C. Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics
Business beyond pharmaceuticals.
Investors have poured hundreds of millions into psychedelic drug development companies like Compass Pathways and atai Life Sciences. Now, psychedelics investments are beginning to flow to other areas of the field too. Business analysis company Crunchbase writes that non-pharmaceutical psychedelics start-ups are on the rise. In a recent post on Crunchbase News, Keerthi Vedantam highlights companies that provide other necessary services to support the psychedelics industry, like trainings for practitioners and therapists, music for therapy sessions, and insurance coverage for psychedelic therapy (see The Microdose’s 5 Questions for Enthea co-founder Sherry Rais).
The Latest in Oregon
Last week, we covered Harris Bricken’s Psychedelic Law Blog’s first post about Oregon Psilocybin Services’ list of proposed rules. The blog has now published an additional five posts digging into the 65-page document.
Licensing fees: Facilitator licenses run $2,000, while licenses for service centers, labs, and manufacturers are $10,000
Location limitations: Licensed manufacturers, testing labs, and service centers can’t be located in the same place as a liquor or cannabis licensee, a residence, a healthcare facility, or a restaurant.
Leaving a service center: Facilitators must discuss how a client will “access safe transportation” after a session; clients will not be allowed to drive themselves home.
Group psilocybin sessions: A single facilitator can supervise up to 16 people using a “low” level of psilocybin (5 mg), but if people are interested in taking the highest allowed dose (50 mg), that facilitator can only supervise two people at once.
Advertising: Marketing for psilocybin cannot include language about its therapeutic effects, or “make other health claims that are not supported by the totality of publicly available scientific evidence.” As attorney Vince Sliwoski writes: “I’m sure we’ll see a fair number of facilitators and service centers make claims that OHA finds objectionable.”
The State of Psychedelics
We’re still a month and a half away from the November election in the US, but discussion around Colorado’s Natural Medicine Health Act (NMHA) is heating up. The act would establish a regulatory structure for psilocybin services in the state, and it was one of two ballot initiatives put forth by Coloradoans this year. The other, called Initiative 61, which would have made possession and personal use of entheogenic plants and fungi legal under state law, did not receive enough signatures to make it on to the ballot.
Critics of the NMHA initiative are concerned that it could allow big companies to take control of psychedelics in the state and that access to psychedelics will become prohibitively expensive. As evidence of this, critics of the NMHA often point to the fact that the NMHA was bankrolled and supported by a national public action committee called New Approach. (The PAC also supported Oregon’s Measure 109 and other states’ efforts to legalize marijuana.)
Last week, advocate Matthew Duffy wrote an op-ed published in the Denver Post critiquing the NMHA, and this week, lawyer Sean McAllister, who is on the steering committee for the NMHA, refuted some of Duffy’s points in another op-ed published by Chacruna. (McAllister is also on Chacruna’s board of directors.) In addition, cannabis education site Leafly dug into some of the claims on both sides.
Psychedelics Spotlight reviews the legal status of psychedelics in India.
Physician Peter Grinspoon reviews the science of microdosing in a post for Harvard Medical School’s site.
You’re all caught up! Have a great weekend. We’ll be back in your inbox Monday morning with a new issue of 5 Questions.
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