Ten challenges in psychedelic science, TREAT California withdraws ballot initiative, and proposed changes to Oregon’s Psilocybin Services Act
Plus: Minnesota’s new psychedelic task force holds first meeting, and more Canadian psilocybin store raids
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.
Ten challenges in psychedelic science
In a recent paper published in Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology, Leiden University psychologists Michiel Van Elk and Eiko Fried outline ten common problems in psychedelic research and suggest solutions for how best to address them. According to the authors, these problems threaten the validity of psychedelic science. “We see many reasons to be seriously concerned,” they write.
Some problems, Van Elk and Fried write, are easier to solve than others. For instance, researchers might address concerns over potential conflicts of interest by publicly disclosing their funders. Other problems with the science are harder to fix, like determining the roles of placebo effects in study results. To that end, Van Elk and Fried suggest a multi-pronged approach, including adjusting study designs, measuring patients’ and therapists’ expectations about the treatment, and to “stop the hype” around the promise of psychedelics to minimize expectation biases from participants and therapists. (Psychedelic researchers have raised concerns that if participants and therapists strongly expect a drug to be effective, this can make it more likely they experience positive effects — which can make it harder to tease apart the placebo effect from drugs’ primary effects.)
TREAT California withdraws ballot initiative
Over the summer, a group named TREAT California launched a ballot initiative campaign that proposed amending the state’s constitution to establish a new state institute overseeing psychedelics research, infrastructure, and delivery. The initiative had proposed a $5 billion budget, to be funded by state bond sales, over the next decade. In September, a review of the proposal by California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office determined that the initiative would cost the state $6.6 billion over the next 30 years.
This week, TREAT California announced they were withdrawing the ballot initiative and using the campaign’s remaining funds to establish a non-profit called TREAT Humanity. In TREAT California’s press release about the withdrawal, the organization reported results from a recent poll of California voters, testing their potential support for the initiative based on the California Attorney General’s summary of the initiative. Sixty percent of those polled said they opposed state funding for psychedelic therapies, and 45 percent said they opposed establishing an agency for psychedelics.
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The Latest in Oregon: Proposed changes to Psilocybin Services Act
In May, the Oregon legislature passed Senate Bill 303, a bill directing the state’s psilocybin service centers to collect data about clients and to report an anonymized summary of that data to the Oregon Health Authority. When state senator Elizabeth Steiner (D) first introduced the bill in January, it was hotly debated by the psychedelics community. While some advocates said they believed such data collection was key to assessing the safety and equity of the new state program, others expressed concerns that data collection would create undue logistical burdens on service centers and potentially compromise the privacy of clients. To help address some of those concerns, Steiner amended the bill to allow clients to opt out of data collection.
Last week, Oregon Psilocybin Services released a draft of the new proposed rules. In addition to laying out the state’s data collection and opt-out policy to comply with SB 303, it also amends and clarifies a number of other issues with how the state runs its psilocybin services program. Some highlights from the 105-page document:
Packaging for psilocybin products must now include the following language: “The risks, benefits, and drug interactions of psilocybin are not fully understood, and individual results may vary.”
Clients cannot record administration, preparation, or integration sessions with their own equipment, and service centers cannot do so without previous consent. Facilitators can access those records without explicit client consent, but only for clients they worked with directly.
Service centers must submit quarterly reports to the Oregon Health Authority about client demographics, number of clients receiving services, the reasons clients requested psilocybin services, average dose clients received, and information about “any adverse reactions” during sessions. Service centers must also report any “severe adverse reactions,” which the proposed amended rules now define as “an adverse behavioral or medical reaction that requires hospitalization.”
The agency is holding public hearings next week to discuss the amended rules, and it is accepting public comment through November 21.
The State of Psychedelics: Minnesota’s new psychedelic task force holds first meeting
In May, Minnesota’s legislature passed an omnibus health budget bill that established a psychedelics task force to advise the state’s legislature on the legal, medical, and policy issues associated with legalizing psychedelic medicine. That task force met for the first time on Monday to discuss its charter and selected Jessica Nielson, a neurobiologist at the University of Minnesota and founder of the Psychedelic Society of Minnesota, as its chairperson. The state bill laid out specific directives for the types of expertise to be represented on the 20-plus member task force, and it includes two state representatives, two state senators, members from the state Attorney General’s office and other state agencies, patients, representatives from the Dakota and Ojibwe Tribes, veterans, and medical professionals.
More Canadian psilocybin store raids
Last week, Canadian authorities continued their efforts to crack down on psilocybin stores by raiding three stores in Vancouver. CBC reports that police had been investigating illegal psychedelic sales for months and had search warrants for the shops. The shops’ owner, Dana Larsen, wrote on his website that he was held by police for seven hours and released without charges.
Last year, Vancouver Police told CBC that their priority was to prosecute organized crime around opioids; many store owners had assumed that the police wouldn’t enforce laws prohibiting psilocybin sales. Larsen told the Vancouver Sun that he believes the raids are related to increased visibility of drug reform and harm reduction activists like the Drug User Liberation Front, which buys cocaine, heroine, and methamphetamine, tests it for safety, then sells it to the group’s members.
The Washington Post explores how psychedelic-assisted therapy might help with climate anxiety.
On former quarterback Robert Griffin III’s podcast, Buffalo Bills’ safety Jordan Poyer says Aaron Rodgers was “right” about ayahuasca, Newsweek reports.
In Scientific American’s podcast Science Quickly, journalist Rachel Nuwer interviews psychedelic company Tactogen’s founder Matt Baggott about the search for new psychedelics.
Denver’s alt-weekly Westword reports on the city’s first-ever psychedelic-growing competition, the Psychedelic Cup.
You’re all caught up! Have a great weekend. We’ll be back in your inbox on Monday with a new issue of 5 Questions.
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