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This Week in Psychedelics: “Candyflipping,” a non-hallucinogenic LSD, and reconsidering “treatment-resistant depression”
Plus: The ethical considerations of trip-free psychedelics and psychedelics in sports
Happy Friday, and welcome back to The Microdose. Here’s the news of the week:
Patenting candyflipping. “Candyflipping” — taking a combination of LSD and MDMA — has been in the party scene since the 1980s; one researcher even used the term in a 1998 study where rats received the two drugs. On Tuesday, the United States Patent and Trademark Office granted a patent to a scientist for what amounts to a candyflip. The patent went to Matthias Liechti, a professor at University of Basel in Switzerland and an advisor for psychedelics company MindMed. In 2020, his lab signed an agreement giving MindMed exclusive rights to the lab’s data, compounds, and patents.
Liechti and MindMed’s new patent is for “administering an empathogen/entactogen and a psychedelic in the same single oral dosage form to an individual,” so blends of MDMA and LSD would fall under this claim, but blends of other entactogens (also sometimes referred to as empathogens, for their ability to evoke emotional connection) and psychedelics, like MDMA and mescaline, for instance, would also qualify.
On Twitter, patent attorney Graham Pechenik pointed out that MindMed isn’t the only company that has tried to patent this combination; psychedelic pharma company CaaMTech filed an application to patent “new compositions and methods” to combine any two serotonergic drugs, which would include LSD and MDMA. (Patent watchdog non-profit Porta Sophia filed documents challenging that CaaMTech’s claims were novel or inventive, leading CaaMTech to withdraw those claims.)
In another thread discussing MindMed’s new patent, Matt Baggott, a neuroscientist and founder of pharma start-up Tactogen, called the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office incompetent and raised concerns about MindMed’s tactics. “MindMed only got this patent by ignoring the prior art that Porta Sophia pointed out,” he wrote. “Ultimately, this is evidence that MindMed continues to be an unethical company despite the change in leaders. And if they aren't honest with USPTO, they won't be honest with retail investors.”
The ethics of trip-free psychedelics. In recent years, researchers have been looking for psychedelic-like drugs that have therapeutic effects without the consciousness-altering “trip.” In a new paper for the Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, Johns Hopkins professors David Yaden and Roland Griffiths and University of Oxford bioethicist Brian Earp discuss ethical considerations for using what they call “non-subjective psychedelics” as treatments that could replace traditional psychedelics.
A potential benefit of these so-called “non-subjective” psychedelics is that they could be cheaper and easier to administer; if patients aren’t tripping, they won’t need hours with a therapist or guide. “It is possible that non-subjective psychedelics could reduce economic costs,” the authors write. “But at what human costs?” They point to previous research that suggests people consider psychedelic trips among the most meaningful experiences of their lives. “We may be under some obligation to provide such an experience,” they say.
There has never been a more exciting – or bewildering – time in the world of psychedelics. Don’t miss a beat.
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Non-hallucinogenic LSD. Speaking of non-subjective psychedelics, psychedelic pharma company Ceruvia announced its submission of an investigational new drug application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to study NYPRG-101, also known as BOL-148, a non-hallucinogenic LSD analog. The proposed study would explore the safety and efficacy of using the drug to prevent migraines.
Torsten Passie, one of Ceruvia’s scientific advisors, has previously studied BOL-148, and a 2010 paper he published suggested three doses of BOL-148 could “considerably improve the frequency and intensity of [headache] attacks.”
Reconsidering “treatment-resistant depression.” A number of recent studies have focused on the potential of psychedelics in treating depression. In some of those studies, researchers recruit participants with what’s called “treatment-resistant depression.” But a new paper by University of Michigan psychiatrists asserts that treatment-resistant depression, or TRD, is “ it is not a diagnosable mental health condition according to current clinical standards,” and it is often poorly defined in clinical trials. “Patients may be labeled with TRD after having tried just one medication, without consideration of effective non-pharmacological treatments such as psychotherapy or holistic interventions to improve sleep, nutrition, and exercise,” the authors write.
Systemic and sociological factors affect depression and its treatment — for instance, whether patients have their needs for safety, food, and shelter met, and the stressors they experience — and ultimately, the psychiatrists write, “TRD does a disservice to patients when it rapidly escalates treatment decisions to increasingly risky and experimental options.” Instead, the psychiatrists suggest that treatment for TRD begin with non-pharmacological interventions like nutrition and exercise, and that researchers consider a more holistic view of depression and to avoid using TRD as a criterion for using “higher-risk interventions” like ketamine.
Psychedelics in sports. Psychedelics have reached sports medicine. This week, Rolling Stone published a profile of former pro-hockey player Riley Cote and his use of psychedelics to heal from years of on-ice fighting and partying. Cote founded a group called Athletes for Care, which advocates for more research on treating the physical and emotional issues athletes face. The organization has brought retired athletes to Jamaica for psilocybin retreats.
Rolling Stone interviews psychedelics psychiatrist Julie Holland, who says psychedelics could have anti-inflammatory effects and may be used to treat neurodegenerative disorders like chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a common condition for former athletes who have sustained repeated concussions. (Research exploring the use of psychedelics to treat brain injuries is still in very early stages.)
From Cote’s and other athletes’ accounts, the opportunity to connect with others in ceremony has been a powerful and meaningful experience. Rolling Stone describes how Cote felt watching former NFL player Justin Renfrow during a ceremony: “Cote felt he was watching a peace settle over the big man as it had once settled over him: a shedding of the skin and the birth of someone new.”
Videos from the Medical Psychedelic House of Davos are now available. The week-long event was held to coincide with this year’s World Economic Forum.
If you need a refresher on the science of psychedelics and the literature to date, a review paper published this week in Neuropharmacology lays it all out nicely.
Psychedelics will not save us, writer Erica Rex writes in a post for Mad in America, and they may be particularly ill-suited to treat women who are survivors of physical or sexual trauma.
In the Summer 2022 newsletter for the Association for Treatment of Sexual Abusers, clinical therapists Natalie Villeneuve and David Prescott write about the “dark sides of psychedelic therapy” and what mental health professionals can do to prevent these abuses of power as the psychedelic therapy field develops.
Michael Pollan’s How To Change Your Mind has been adapted into a four-part series for Netflix. Last week, the streaming service released a trailer for the upcoming show.
You’re all caught up! Have a great weekend. Stay tuned for a new issue of 5 Questions on Monday.
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