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Psychedelics for alcoholism, another withdrawal from DEA, and Terran sues Compass
Plus: The Latest in Oregon, and the State of Psychedelics
Happy Friday, and welcome back to The Microdose. We hope you had a great August. Here’s the latest from the psychedelics world, along with some key developments from the last month:
Psychedelics for alcoholism. A study published last week in JAMA Psychiatry provides new evidence that psilocybin-assisted therapy could be used to treat alcoholism, or Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). Ninety-three patients diagnosed with alcohol dependence received twelve psychotherapy sessions over the course of twelve weeks. During weeks 4 and 8 of the study, participants underwent two day-long therapy sessions that included taking a medication: either psilocybin or diphenhydramine (an antihistamine that is chemically identical to Benadryl and was meant to serve as a placebo).
The researchers, primarily affiliated with New York University and the University of New Mexico, tracked participants for 32 weeks, and found that those who had received psilocybin reported fewer days of heavy drinking than those who’d received diphenhydramine. (In this study, heavy drinking was defined as 4 or more drinks per day for women, and 5 or more drinks for men.) At the end of the study, even those who received psychotherapy with the placebo reported half as many heavy drinking days as they had at the beginning of the study, suggesting other aspects of the study (like therapy sessions or participants’ expectations) may have contributed to results.
Also noteworthy is the study’s lengthy conflict of interest disclosures. Authors reported receiving funds from individual psychedelic philanthropists as well as private research institutes and companies. They also report a patent application related to this work and other patents related to treating mental health issues with psychedelics. (Previously, The Microdose covered author Stephen Ross and NYU’s patent application laying claim to using a single dose of psilocybin to treat depression and anxiety, which attorney Matt Zorn called “hot psilocybin patent garbage.”)
Another withdrawal by the DEA. In April, The Microdose reported on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s proposed rule to add two previously unregulated hallucinogens known as DOI and DOC to the list of Schedule I drugs. Last week, the DEA announced it was withdrawing that proposed rule. This comes after a similar withdrawal in July, where the DEA abandoned its plan to schedule five tryptamines.
After the DEA introduced the two new proposed rules, the agency faced criticism from researchers, companies, and lawyers, many of whom celebrated this second withdrawal as a win:
However, the DEA could still propose other changes. In a document published on the Federal Register, the agency says it is withdrawing the proposed rule but “will be publishing a new proposed rule using an amended procedure.”
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
In case you missed it: Terran sues Compass. In March, psychedelics company Terran Biosciences announced an exclusive licensing deal with the University of Maryland, Baltimore to commercialize the university’s patents. Now, Terran is alleging that mental health company Compass Pathways misappropriated psilocybin trade secrets from UMB researcher Scott Thompson. In a lawsuit filed in early August, Terran says Compass began discussions with Thompson about a partnership, but afterwards, “stringing Thompson along, it secretly filed its own patent application,” which amounted to “claiming Thompson’s invention for itself.”
In Psychedelic Alpha’s weekly bulletin, the publication points out that the lawsuit represents only Terran’s side of the story. “A more cynical observer might wonder if this alleged misappropriation of trade secrets might be the impetus for a fishing expedition of sorts,” they write. Terran has been secretive about its projects, and if their suit is successful, it could require Compass, a competitor, to divulge details about their own projects and plans.
From his tweets, it appears Thompson feels violated by Compass:
The State of Psychedelics
California’s Senate Bill 519, which would have made possession and personal use of some psychedelic drugs legal under state law, is dead in the water. (For more on the bill, read The Microdose’s interview with senator Scott Wiener.) On August 11, the California Assembly Appropriations Committee passed the bill on to the full Assembly, but with a major amendment: the committee removed the bill’s actual decriminalization provisions, leaving only SB 519’s creation of a working group to study and make recommendations on steps California could take to allow access to certain substances (which would remain illegal under Federal law). “While I am extremely disappointed by this result, I am looking to reintroduce this legislation next year and continue to make the case that it’s time to end the War on Drugs,” Wiener said in a statement.
Last month, psychedelics advocates were excited at the prospect of having Colorado voters weigh in on two psychedelics ballot initiatives, but only one of the two initiatives received enough signatures to be included on the state’s November ballot. Initiative 58, also called the Natural Medicine Health Act, would establish psilocybin services in the state, similar to Oregon’s Measure 109. It would also investigate the possibility of adding DMT, ibogaine, and mescaline services by 2026. In July, that initiative surpassed the state’s requisite 125,000 signatures. Initiative 61, which would have made possession and personal use of entheogenic plants and fungi legal under state law, only obtained 5,000 signatures, according to The Denver Channel. The small number of signatures supporting Initiative 61 is a reflection of the on-going debate over the state’s two psychedelic initiatives: while Initiative 61 was a grassroots campaign run by volunteers, Initiative 58 was supported by New Approach, a Washington D.C.-based political action committee which also bankrolled Oregon’s Measure 109 in 2020. (For more on Colorado’s psychedelics initiatives, listen to City Cast Denver’s series Ballot Trip.)
The Latest in Oregon
In July and August, dozens of Oregon cities, towns, and counties considered opting out of Measure 109, which establishes psilocybin services in the state. August 19 was the deadline to file a ballot title with county clerks; 26 of the state’s 36 counties, as well as 57 cities throughout the state, will vote on banning or delaying the establishment of psilocybin services.
Last Thursday, Carolyn Bennett, Canada’s Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, met with Oregon’s psilocybin advisory board to learn about the state’s psilocybin services framework. This suggests the Canadian government is looking at alternative models for psilocybin access, which squares with recent developments on the issue: earlier this year, Health Canada laid out a new program allowing physicians to request psilocybin-assisted therapy on behalf of their patients. Despite that change, the Canadian government was recently named in a lawsuit by seven patients and a healthcare practitioner alleging that access to the drug was still too restrictive and that the available avenues don’t adequately serve the needs of patients.
The Zide Door Church of Entheogenic Plants was raided by the Oakland police in 2020; the group has now filed a lawsuit against the city and the Oakland Police Department claiming a violation of their rights under the 1st and 14th amendments, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
NPR profiles the Pachamama Sanctuary, a church in New Hampshire offering ayahuasca retreats.
The Harvard Psychedelic Walking Tour podcast takes listeners on a journey around Harvard University, describing how the campus served as the launch pad for the psychedelic revolution. The podcast details the ways in which Harvard faculty and students have shaped the role of psychedelic drugs in American culture.
Magic mushrooms are helping Black mothers unwind and heal, the Guardian reports.
You’re all caught up! Have a great long weekend. We’ll be back in your inboxes with another issue of This Week in Psychedelics next Friday.
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