Discover more from The Microdose
Psilocybin sessions have begun in Oregon, DC-based PAC New Approach enters Massachusetts, and a tangle of patent claims
Plus: “Imprinting” in psychedelics, and the cancer patients v. DEA showdown continues
Happy Friday, and welcome back to The Microdose, an independent journalism newsletter brought to you by the U.C. Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics.
The Latest in Oregon: Psilocybin sessions have begun
On Monday, a client working in Bend, Oregon completed what is thought to be the first psilocybin session under the state’s regulated access system. The client worked with Bendable Therapy, a non-profit that helps clients navigate psilocybin services and provides financial support, and he received his dose at a service center that did not want to be identified by name. Josh Goldstein, the session’s facilitator, told The Microdose that the client was psychedelics-naive, and that after a 50mg dose (the maximum allowed under Oregon’s regulations), he described his session as “life-changing.”
A single psilocybin session in Oregon can cost several thousand dollars; Bendable Therapy says it granted this client a 50% scholarship.
DC-based PAC New Approach enters Massachusetts
Last week, we reported that a group called Massachusetts for Mental Health Options filed forms with the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance signaling that they plan to organize a psychedelics ballot initiative. A Washington DC-based Political Action Committee, or PAC, called New Approach is behind the effort. New Approach also worked on the ballot initiatives that passed in Oregon and Colorado. This week, attorney Mason Marks published a press release in response to this news from three local psychedelic advocacy groups: Bay Staters for Natural Medicine, Parents for Plant Medicine, and New England Veterans for Plant Medicine. (The Microdose reached out to Bay Staters last week for comment but did not receive a response.) In the press release, community organizers express concern that local grassroots organizations were not contacted by New Approach. “Rather than helping out with our existing efforts, this PAC is distracting from the local work here of bay staters,” said Michael Botelho, co-founder of New England Veterans for Plant Medicine.
Marks also obtained a copy of New Approach’s proposal for its Massachusetts ballot initiative, which is called the Plant-Based Psychedelic Substances Health Act, and published his analysis. “It borrows heavily from New Approach’s ballot initiative in Colorado, the Natural Medicine Health Act, which voters approved in November (and to a lesser extent, its Oregon campaign of 2020),” Marks writes. But there are also key differences: while Colorado’s Natural Medicine Health Act allows home cultivation of plants and fungi containing psilocybin, psilocin, DMT, ibogaine, and mescaline (except peyote), the proposed Massachusetts text may not, according to Marks. And unlike Colorado and Oregon’s programs, which are funded by licensing fees, Massachusetts’s would be funded through tax revenue on sales of psychedelic substances.
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A tangle of patent claims
In March, Canadian company Reunion Neuroscience (formerly known as Field Trip) filed a lawsuit against psychedelic start-up Mindset Pharma over the latter company’s patent rights to the drug 4-HO-DiPT, a synthetic psychedelic compound Reunion calls RE104. Reunion alleged that Mindset “misleadingly presented that exact composition to the Patent Office as Mindset’s invention.” According to Psychedelic Alpha, a new wrinkle in that lawsuit appeared last week: a patent application by psychedelic company Terran Biosciences also includes claims to the same form of 4-OH-DiPT.
Remember that patent applications are sealed for 18 months after they are filed with the patent office. The newly published patent application reveals that Terran submitted their application on January 6, 2022, just a week after a patent filed by Field Trip (now Reunion) was published. No decision has been made by authorities about Terran’s patent yet, but it could make an already hairy patent dispute even more complicated and is a sign that patent wrangling will continue in the psychedelics field. Terran has previously sought out opportunities for licensing agreements with universities and private companies to add to its growing cadre of psychedelic patents, and the company has sued to maintain those rights.
“Imprinting” in psychedelics
In a new paper published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, researchers at McGill University investigate how participants’ recent prior experiences, especially exposure to digital inputs like video games and social media, can shape people’s ketamine trips. One patient reported that Disney-themed hallucinations “hijacked” her ketamine session, which left her frustrated. She then revealed to researchers that, for years, she’d spent up to six hours a day on a Disney social media forum trading commemorative Disney pins. She decided she’d no longer spend time on the forums before her next ketamine session, which resulted in her no longer having Disney-themed hallucinations. The paper’s authors present other qualitative data suggesting that digital media “imprints” on participants and shapes their experiences. Another participant reported seeing themselves as a fish after watching the sea-themed movie Luca, and another recognized their space-pod hallucination as “like that movie that I just watched.” There are other examples of imprinting when people take other psychedelics, too, including psilocybin, ibogaine, MDMA, and ayahuasca.
“We suggest that future psychedelic studies examining set and setting should not focus only on immediate treatment environments,” the authors write. “Rather, potential influences of recent and past environmental exposures require investigation and consideration, especially in populations where there may be excessive use of digital media.”
The cancer patients v. DEA showdown continues
Since 2021, Seattle-based physician Sunil Aggarwal has been seeking access to psilocybin for several cancer patients in his care under federal Right to Try laws. That effort has resulted in a series of legal volleys between Aggarwal’s legal team and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Last week, Aggarwal filed a brief in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals arguing that the DEA’s recent actions “reek of bad faith” and asking the court to send the case back to DEA “with instructions to request HHS’s scentific/medical evaluations and scheduling recommendations.”
This is the latest in a case known as AIMS v. DEA. (The clinic Aggarwal co-founded is called the Advanced Integrative Medical Science, or AIMS, Institute.) In February, Aggarwal filed an appeal reiterating his years-long request that the DEA grant him and his patients access to psilocybin, and that the DEA request medical and scientific evaluations from the Department of Health and Human Services to assess whether the agency could down-schedule psilocybin from Schedule I to Schedule II. In May, DEA submitted a brief doubling down on a previous denial of Aggarwal’s rescheduling petition, reiterating its position that psilocybin has “no currently accepted medical use.” The DEA’s brief did say that the agency would reconsider the issue if told to do so by the court. Aggarwal’s new brief claims that the DEA is acting in bad faith: “If [DEA] really were interested in considering the evidence, it could look at all the evidence already submitted—or run a basic PubMed search for ‘psilocybin’ and ‘clinical trial.’”
Kathryn Tucker, an attorney representing Aggarwal, told The Microdose that oral arguments before the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals are expected to be held in October.
Four doctors working at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center published commentary in the International Journal of Gynecological Cancer calling for more research into using psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy to treat cancer-related anxiety in people with gynecological cancer. The doctors announced that they will begin a clinical trial exploring the issue in 2024.
On WIRED’s podcast Have a Nice Future, Johns Hopkins neuroscientist Gül Dölen discusses her work on octopuses and psychedelics.
Axios summarizes “why mainstreaming psychedelics isn’t generating a fuss.”
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