This Week in Psychedelics: Free LSD, Canadian government decriminalizes certain drugs in B.C., and psychedelic-assisted therapy
Plus: The Latest in Oregon and The State of Psychedelics
Happy Friday, and welcome back to The Microdose. Here’s the news of the week:
Free LSD! This week, pharmaceutical company Ceruvia Lifesciences announced they will provide LSD to researchers at no cost. In a press release, Ceruvia says the LSD they’re providing meets the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMP) regulations, which were created to ensure drug manufacturers’ products are consistent across batches, and that they operate safely.
This LSD will be used in two upcoming trials at New York University’s Center for Psychedelic Medicine, and the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelics and Consciousness Research, which Ceruvia founder Carey Turnbull says will likely be the first FDA-approved human trials in the United States in over 50 years. (Neither trial is registered yet on the federal clinical trial site.) Ceruvia is requiring researchers interested in obtaining free LSD to submit details about their proposed work, like their study protocols and human subjects research approvals.
Free LSD for science recalls an earlier moment in LSD research. In the 1950s and early 60s, the drug was studied as a treatment for mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. (Based on those studies, it didn’t seem to be a promising treatment.) according to historian Erika Dyck, scientists published over a thousand articles about LSD between 1943 and 1958. But in 1968, the U.S. outlawed LSD, and American LSD research all but stopped. Turnbull told The Microdose the company’s leadership hopes the free LSD “will provide a catalyst to profoundly useful life science.”
Canadian government decriminalizes certain drugs in British Columbia. This week, the Canadian government announced that adults in the country’s British Columbia province can possess up to 2.5 grams of MDMA, cocaine, opioids, and methamphetamine beginning January 31, 2023 without fear of arrest or criminal charges. The federal government made the decision in response to requests from British Columbia Public Health and Vancouver Public Health asking that possession of small amounts of illicit drugs be exempted from the law. The province has been hard-hit by overdose deaths.
Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, tweeted that the move could help save lives. “Stigma and fear of criminalization cause some people to hide their drug use, use alone, or use in other ways that increase the risk of harm,” she wrote. CBC reports that the policy is set to last for three years.
There has never been a more exciting – or bewildering – time in the world of psychedelics. Don’t miss a beat.
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An examination of the therapy in “psychedelic-assisted therapy.” When people take psychedelics in a clinical setting, their experiences — and the guidance they receive — will vary greatly. Even within the same clinical trial, practitioners might use different approaches in participants’ therapy sessions. In a paper published in Frontiers in Psychology last week, researchers at Johns Hopkins, U.C. Berkeley, Hofstra, and Portland Psychotherapy Clinic reviewed the history and sociology of how psychedelics are administered in European and American clinical research settings. The setting and practice of psychedelic therapy has been influenced by new age beliefs, Indigenous traditions, psychoanalysis (think Freud and Jung), and, more recently, cognitive-behavioral approaches like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT).
The authors argue that cognitive-behavioral frameworks like CBT, DBT, and ACT should be the gold standard in psychedelic therapy. These approaches “have the merits of more empirically testable claims, theoretical assumptions more linked to contemporary psychological science, and a large base of empirical support for their safety and efficacy,” they write — but these frameworks, as well as other kinds of cognitive-behavioral approaches, should be tested empirically for their efficacy in psychedelic therapy as well.
The Latest in Oregon. With psilocybin services slated to roll out in Oregon next year (if the federal government doesn’t interfere), Oregon Psilocybin Services plans to begin accepting applications for training program curriculum approvals beginning June 6. Just before Memorial Day weekend, Oregon Psilocybin Services sent an email to their list announcing an “important update.”
“OPS recently learned that psilocybin facilitator training programs may be subject to licensure by the Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) in Oregon,” the email read. According to Oregon state law, any “career school” — which the law defines as “any private proprietary professional, technical, home study, correspondence, business or other school instruction, organization or person that offers any instruction or training for the purpose or purported purpose of instructing, training or preparing persons for any profession” — must be licensed through the HECC.
HECC licensure could present another barrier for organizations seeking to provide psychedelic facilitator training in Oregon. According to a letter written by HECC’s program administrator, licensure through HECC typically takes 3-6 months but can also take up to a year. The process involves submitting a bevy of documents, registration for all instructors, and potentially thousands of dollars in licensing fees. Training organizations can request exemptions from the HECC licensure requirement; as training programs develop, we could see organizations trying to claim those exemptions. As Oregon moves into the last few months of setting up psilocybin services, we’re likely to see additional unforeseen regulatory issues like this pop up.
The State of Psychedelics. In April, we reported on Maryland Senate Bill 709, which proposed a fund to study “alternative therapies” like MDMA, psilocybin, and ketamine for patients with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries. The bill headed to the governor’s desk for a signature — but last week, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan included SB 709 on a list of bills that will become law without his signature. (Some states allow bills to pass without a governor’s signature, as long as the governor does not veto it — governors sometimes use this policy to avoid explicitly endorsing a bill.)
Mushroom beverage company MUD\WTR supports employees microdosing psilocybin at work, Fast Company reports.
The Guardian covers the Psychedelic House of Davos, a week-long event held alongside the World Economic Forum’s meeting. The forum’s programming was a mix of the “woo-woo” and “a sober catalog of lectures and panels,” and the audience included “an eclectic range of burner psychonauts, big pharma investors and humanitarians from around the globe concerned about the escalating mental health crisis.”
Insider announced the launch of their psychedelics clinical trial tracker, which documents the progress of 18 trials. (The tracker is available only to Insider subscribers.)
On Twitter, neuroscientist and Washington University psychiatry resident Josh Siegel pointed out an interesting trend: this is the first year since the mid-1980s that there have been more papers in the biomedical paper repository PubMed that mention psychedelics than papers mentioning SSRIs. (You can see the graph Siegel tweeted here.)
You’re all caught up! Have a great weekend. Stay tuned for a new 5 Questions on Monday.
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