Ketamine Therapy Offered as Employee Health Benefit Nationwide

A national provider of workplace insurance for psychedelic therapy recently partnered with two new companies to expand their network and offer ketamine-assisted therapy as a health benefit nationwide.

“Nationwide availability represents a pivotal moment in accomplishing Enthea’s mission of helping employers with workplace mental health challenges,” said Sherry Rais, chief executive officer and co-founder of Enthea. 

Enthea is a company that focuses on providing psychedelic assisted therapies for employee health plans and ketamine is the first and only such drug with known psychedelic and/or hallucinatory effects to be approved in any fashion by the FDA for use in mental health treatments. Enthea recently announced a partnership with two companies: Skylight Psychedelics and Innerwell. Both companies help facilitate remote and in-person psychedelic-assisted experiences.

“Skylight Psychedelics is thrilled to join forces with Enthea,” said Scott Bienenfeld, MD, Co-Founder. “Through our collaboration, we will help people overcome a variety of mental health conditions by expanding access to cutting-edge, often life-saving treatments, such as ketamine-assisted therapy and other emerging psychedelic medicine modalities.”

This partnership allows certain eligible employees to potentially take advantage of ketamine therapy without paying exorbitant fees often associated with the blossoming field of psychedelic assisted therapy, with session prices for a single psilocybin experience exceeding $2,000 in places like Oregon. Estimates for an average price of a ketamine session are all over the place depending on where you look but the most common estimate of an uninsured patient’s cost is $400-$800 per session.

Very few people are currently eligible to take advantage of these benefits, 1,500 nationwide by the estimate Enthea gave to Vice but they hope to get those numbers up to 200,000 by the end of next year.

“Investing in the mental health of employees is critical. Innerwell is proud to partner with Enthea to help future-thinking employers offer ketamine and other medication-assisted treatments that have lasting, transformative outcomes,” said Lisa Kennedy, CEO of Innerwell. “Our team of specifically trained clinicians delivers compassionate care while our data-driven approach will help accelerate the adoption of these new treatments by proving the efficacy of these innovative modalities.”

The FDA first approved ketamine-assisted therapy in 2019 via a nasal spray under the brand name Spravato in conjunction with an oral antidepressant. Since then, a large number of clinics and physicians have begun offering the somewhat controversial practice. Some estimates put the number of clinics between 500 and 750 nationwide but there’s not a national registry so it’s hard to say. In 2022 the market for ketamine clinics was estimated to be around $3.1 billion.

Enthea has been offering coverage for ketamine therapy since last year and touted data from a year of offering ketamine-assisted therapy to the employees of Dr. Bronner’s soap company, saying that employees who took advantage of the service experienced drastic reductions in symptoms related to mental health disorders. Depression symptoms were reduced by 67% and PTSD by 86%, according to data in an Enthea press release. 

“The health and wellbeing of our employees is the primary driver in how we think about benefits and compensation. Offering coverage for ketamine-assisted therapy is in the interest of providing tools to our workforce to have the best quality of life and best options for mental health care,” said Michael Bronner, President of Dr. Bronner’s in a prepared statement about the program’s launch in 2022. “Our family and company are no strangers to depression and anxiety. We are deeply concerned about the mental health crisis society is facing, especially in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. Considering all our advocacy on this issue, this employee benefit is the next logical step.”

Due to the positive data from Dr. Bronner’s case study and the new partnerships with Innerwell and Starlight, Enthea’s provider network has increased significantly enough for them to now offer these services to employers nationwide. Enthea’s benefits packages can be added onto existing health, dental and vision plans according to the press release. 

“The providers in Enthea’s Network are critical to our mission of ensuring access to high quality and affordable ketamine-assisted therapy,” stated Andrew Ninnimann, Enthea’s Director of Networks and Strategic Initiatives. “We remain committed to working with companies at the forefront of innovation as it pertains to developments that are changing the mental health industry.”

Any employers who wish to offer Enthea’s services need only contact them at this handy-dandy little hyperlink to find out more.

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The Medicalized Psychedelic Narrative Is Out of Control

The medicalization narrative in corporate psychedelia is out of control. Virtually overnight, hundreds of FDA-worshiping rent-seekers have founded non-profits, PBC’s, media platforms, professional societies and for-profit corporations to trumpet the benefit of psychedelics as rigidly controlled tools within the medical industrial complex. 

Whether it’s PTSD, depression, anorexia, or IBS, there’s a new magic pill in town to treat your symptoms without actually addressing any of the macro societal issues that cause the conditions in the first place. Those championing this forthcoming era of mainstream medicalized psychedelics often do so in a humorless and hubristic sense that emphasizes the importance of being in a clinically controlled environment far removed from any recreational, indigenous, or church setting. 

 There are even a number of companies actively devoting themselves to the noble task of removing the trip from psychedelic substances, so as to further cement their status as the newest portfolio asset in the pharmaceutical industrial complex.  

Pill-popping culture has engulfed the psychedelic renaissance, trampling upon indigenous sovereignty, individual autonomy and good old fashioned fun in the process.

Perhaps there’s a bright future in tripping on FDA approved, patented novel molecules in a clinic with strangers who will bill your employer-provided insurance handsomely, but I’ll still be eating homegrown mushrooms in a hot spring and smoking spliffs with my friends long after that time comes. 

Remember when tripping on mushrooms in the forest and taking MDMA on a dance floor at an underground rave was fun? 

When LSD was something you did in your friends basement on the weekends and at music festivals, and you couldn’t stop laughing about the most ephemeral and mundane aspects of life as everything around you pulsed with idiosyncratic meaning and the trees started breathing and communicating with you? 

Not on the corporate psychedelia watch. Psychedelics are tools of the medical establishment now, cogs in a closed loop economy dictated by pharmaceutical conglomerates and their armies of gatekeepers. Tripping is now serious business, and recreational use is dangerous and shameful. 

Trying to cope with untenable social and environmental conditions imposed by ecological collapse, soaring costs of living and a rapidly unraveling social fabric?

Oh, that little  quandary has been conveniently fit into an ambiguous and clinically-validated little box called ‘depression’ that puts the onus on you as an individual to find ways of coping with radical societal inequities, rapidly disappearing biodiversity, and the general collective crisis of meaning beleaguering humanity. 

Try hippy flipping in a clinic with a couple of therapists who took a 40 hour online course about psychedelics last year if you need a quick salve for your constant anxiety amidst our legit existential crisis. 

Or maybe hire a coach to help you spiritually bypass it all. Anything except address the root causes of the myriad symptoms collectively signaling a mental health crisis. 

As the newly appointed research fellows and establishment credentialed psychedelic scientists will tell you, “Trust the data. Let’s get psychedelics over the line.”

What fucking line? The line between cognitive liberty and rigidly hierarchically controlled pill popping? It’s a curious fact that most data agrees with those funding the research and setting the cultural norms. 

And of course millennia of indigenous use does not constitute data, because white men didn’t get to control for the placebo in these contexts.   

One of the preferred slogans of the psychedelic establishment is to confidently proclaim that “the hippies failed” and that we need medical data to decide who gets to access psychedelics, where, and for what reasons. 

Psilocybin mushrooms aren’t for elevating your creative potential and exploring your own consciousness – they’re for treating depression and anxiety, for restoring your mental health under the guidance of a state validated healthcare professional without changing anything else about the societal status quo. 

On that note, when did the flagship molecules of the psychedelic renaissance become a horse tranquilizer and an amphetamine? 

I deeply angered a leading corporate psychedelia advocate with that joke earlier this year even though I explained in advance that it was indeed a joke; apparently there’s no room for humor and laughter in our new psychedelic medicine paradigm. 

Remember when Shroom Stocks were a thing? And then everyone who has never grown or eaten mushrooms invested in them and quickly lost a lot of money? 

Maybe the handful of biotech companies actively working to remove the psychedelic experience from DMT and psilocybin have it right. If they can sell that ruse, they deserve the money they’re after. However, given the performance of these companies over the last few years, this crusade is more of a race to the bottom than a rising tide for the psychedelic renaissance. 

Or we could just keep pushing Microdosing, because it’s the perfect bait and switch. “Look! Psychedelics are socially acceptable now because they fit nicely within the prevailing societal ethos of habitual consumption! It’s almost like an SSRI, but a little more edgy!” 

I respect that a medicalized approach to psychedelic-assisted therapy should be an option available to people, and that many will benefit from such a hierarchical and centralized system. 

But when pharmaceutical executives are contacting me from their vacation house in Aspen asking me to jump on board with their push to politicize psychedelics, we no longer have any kind of renaissance on our hands. 

The sudden onslaught of overnight authorities positioning themselves as champions of mental health and chomping at the bit to advocate for psychedelics as a clinical treatment for X, Y, and Z without consideration of underlying socioeconomic and environmental determinants conspiring to create the mental health crisis in the first place is laughably myopic and disingenuous. 

Maybe we should entrust the keys to consciousness to the rent-seeking, pill-popping culture-devoted gatekeepers who often have little to no experience with altered states themselves. But maybe there’s still room for weirdness, levity and laughter in the coming age of mainstream psychedelics. 

If you need me, I’ll be frolicking in the forest with friends tripping on some homegrown cubensis.

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Survey: One-Third of Those Under 50 Open to Psychedelic Mental Health Treatments

A poll from YouGov “found that a significant percentage of respondents across different age groups, including 18-24 year olds (36%) and 25-49 year olds (30%), expressed interest in trialing psilocybin and other currently illegal substances like ketamine, MDMA, and DMT for treating mental health conditions,” Psychedelic Spotlight reported.

The outlet noted that the YouGov poll was commissioned by a London-based clinical trials startup called Lindus Health, which has a proclaimed mission to “use software to help innovative companies run faster, more reliable, and patient-friendly clinical trials.”

“Aside from psilocybin,  those aged between 18-24 were most interested in trialing ketamine (27%) and for 25-49 year olds the next highest was MDMA (26%),” Psychedelic Spotlight reported. “Interestingly, Psilocybin came out on top for all age groups – including 54-60 year olds (17%) and those aged above 65+ (10%).”

The survey’s findings are yet more evidence of the growing acceptance of psychedelic treatment options.

A poll in June from the University of California, Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics revealed that a solid majority of Americans support the idea of providing access to psychedelic therapies.

“More than six out of 10 (61%) American registered voters support legalizing regulated therapeutic access to psychedelics, including 35% who report ‘strong’ support,” the pollsters wrote in their analysis. “In addition, more than three-quarters of voters (78%) support making it easier for researchers to study psychedelic substances. Almost half (49%) support removing criminal penalties for personal use and possession.”

Imran Khan, the executive director of the UC Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics (BCSP), said that the survey’s findings represented the “the first clear picture we have of what the American public think and feel about psychedelics.”

“The Berkeley Psychedelics Survey shows that the majority of American voters are interested in, and supportive of, the field. They want fewer barriers to research for scientists, and they want regulated, therapeutic access for the public,” Khan said. “Amidst all the stigma and the hype about these powerful substances, it’s vital that researchers, policy-makers, and practitioners can understand and respond to the public’s hopes and fears. We’re excited to reveal the full results of the Berkeley Psychedelics Survey in the coming weeks.”

Berkeley, California has proven to be an epicenter for psychedelic reform.

Earlier this summer, city officials there approved a measure to decriminalize both psilocybin mushrooms and ayahuasca.

The widening acceptance of psychedelics has also led to a flowering of research, particularly into their potential as an effective treatment for mental health.

A recent study explored how psychedelics activate the Default Mode Network (DMN) of the brain, defined as “a system of connected brain areas that show increased activity when a person is not focused on what is happening around them.”

“The DMN is especially active, research shows, when one engages in introspective activities such as daydreaming, contemplating the past or the future, or thinking about the perspective of another person. Unfettered daydreaming can often lead to creativity. The default mode network is also active when a person is awake. However, in a resting state, when a person is not engaged in any demanding, externally oriented mental task, the mind shifts into ‘default,’” the publication Psychology Today said in its report on the study.

A study in May found that microdosing “could increase state authenticity through influencing people’s mood … and satisfaction with daily activities.”

“We propose that feeling and behaving authentically could have a central role in explaining the positive effects of microdosing on health and wellbeing that are reported by current research,” the authors of that study wrote in their analysis. “In conclusion, we have found evidence that the microdosing practice was related to higher ratings of state authenticity and that a behavioural mechanism is most likely at work. Our study opens the door to a new line of research as we propose that feeling and behaving authentically could have a central role in explaining the positive effects of microdosing on health and wellbeing that are reported by current research.”

Psychedelics are already widely accepted among the world’s upper-crust, with much of Silicon Valley’s elite regularly microdosing.

A story published earlier this summer by the Wall Street Journal said that Elon Musk takes ketamine, while Google co-founder Sergey Brin is known to take psychedelic mushrooms.

“Routine drug use has moved from an after-hours activity squarely into corporate culture, leaving boards and business leaders to wrestle with their responsibilities for a workforce that frequently uses. At the vanguard are tech executives and employees who see psychedelics and similar substances, among them psilocybin, ketamine and LSD, as gateways to business breakthroughs,” the Journal said

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The Summer of Busts

Though the Summer of 2023 has been flush with great musical events, from jam band farewells to EDM gatherings, there has also been the unfortunate reality of drug-related police activity resulting in numerous arrests and large amounts of party favors confiscated. 

Much of this article will be centered around one particular locale where some of the drug busts—along with one tragic mass shooting—took place: the idyllic Gorge Amphitheatre in Grant County, Washington, a legendary venue situated on the banks of the Columbia River in the eastern part of the state. 

The Gorge was the site of the most recent music event spoiled by drug arrests: the Bass Canyon Music Festival, a celebration of EDM (electronic dance music), which took place over the weekend of August 18-20. The Grant Co Sheriff’s Department arrested 13 people while confiscating $20,000 worth of goodies, including cocaine, LSD and ketamine, along with cannabis. Even though weed has been legal in Washington for over a decade, it’s still against the law to sell it without a license.    

The Grant Co Sheriff’s Dept. conducted 14 different investigations in total, their heightened response prompted by an earlier shooting on the same concert grounds in June—more on that story to follow. 

In their official statement to the media, the Sheriff’s Dept. seemed to be rationalizing their overzealous operation, by stating that the concert grounds can hold up to 25,000 people, the same population as nearby small towns.  Yet, modern music festivals have always been about those sorts of cramped conditions, and the vast majority go off smoothly without any overbearing police presence being necessary. 

Similar drug raids were also conducted on the East Coast, including at the Elements Festival in Long Pond, situated in Pennsylvania’s Monroe County. A self-described “car camping” electronic music festival that occurred over the weekend of August 11-14, 11 people in all were arrested, charged with selling various substances to festival attendees.  

According to reports, the increased police scrutiny this year was prompted by overdoses at the Elements Fest the previous year, in 2022. Yet once again, the Sheriff’s Dept’s claims raise the issue that the priority should be ensuring people are offered proper medical services, along with taking safe substances in the first place. Because no matter how big or small of a law enforcement presence there actually is, people are going to take drugs at festivals and concerts, because most of the dealers don’t get caught.

It was an actual shooting—not only overdoses—at the Beyond Wonderland EDM Festival held at the Gorge on Saturday, June 17 that made national headlines. Two people were horrifically shot to death, with two others wounded—including the gunman’s own girlfriend, causing permanent injuries to her. The festival’s Sunday schedule was promptly canceled in wake of the mass shooting.  

It’s worth noting that the two murder victims were a same-sex female couple engaged to be married; they were walking together when Kelly shot them to death. A male who tried to help the victims, as well as the suspect’s aforementioned girlfriend, were wounded by gunfire. The accused gunman, 26-year old James Kelly, who was captured on the festival grounds, is an active-duty soldier stationed in Washington state. It has yet to be revealed whether or not the shootings were politically motivated. Kelly has claimed it was a bad “mushroom trip” that caused him to shoot down his fellow concertgoers, which the corporate media were quick to exploit in their coverage of the shooting. As told to police, during one of the concert performances, a tripping Kelly was filled with thoughts of the world coming to an end, and so he rushed back to his tent, where his gun was waiting to be fired indiscriminately.

The Wonderland incident provided all the justification required for an intricately coordinated multi-agency operation to conduct over-the-top drug activity during the popular jam band Dead and Company’s farewell tour stop to the Gorge on July 7 and 8. 

Mutually involved in the Dead & Co. busts were the Interagency Narcotics Enforcement Team (INET), Grant County Sheriff’s Office, Moses Lake Police Department Street Crimes Unit, as well as Homeland Security Investigations, meaning the US government was involved as well.  

Various substances with a combined estimated street value of over $200,000 were seized, including over 28,000 grams of weed, dabs and edibles, as well as coke, shrooms, molly and acid. In all, 13 people were arrested on drug felony charges.

Posting on their Facebook page July 12, the Grant County Sheriff’s Office issued an official statement regarding the bust, making no apologies for the arrests and seizures:

“The Gorge Amphitheater encourages law enforcement pro-activity at their concerts which are known to have an illegal drug culture based on the number of overdoses and incidents experienced over the years.”  The statement also referenced the recent EDM festival shooting. 

However, the Sheriff’s Dept failed to address the primary problem of the Wonderland incident, which wasn’t the mushrooms, but the firearm that was illegally brought onto the concert grounds, which as stated in the venue’s official rules, is prohibited. While it’s true that psychedelic mushrooms were prohibited too, that substance cannot be used as a weapon to impulsively kill innocent people. Law enforcement did not provide a statement regarding an apparent plan in place to prevent future gun violence at the Gorge, solely focusing on the drugs.

The arrests and seizures at the Gorge were not the first time during the two-month Dead & Co. summer tour that big busts at one of their gigs made the news. When the band performed at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (aka SPAC), located in upstate New York, on June 17 and 18, local law enforcement was in full force. So full in fact, that the New York State Park Police reported those two D&C shows were among the busiest they’ve ever experienced in terms of drug busts, as well as some actual, violent crime they had to deal with at the venue. The Park Police seized LSD, cocaine, mushrooms, ketamine, meth, weighing equipment and even black-market “packaging”.  Additionally, 54 tanks of nitrous oxide were seized, along with arresting over 30 individuals, as well as confiscating $33,000 in cold hard cash from one luckless drug dealer. 

Concerts by Phish, the biggest jam band outside of Dead & Co., also experienced unwanted—and perhaps unwarranted—treatment by law enforcement. As reported by Phish fans on Reddit, accompanied by photos that provided visual confirmation of the claim, a circulating memo revealed that a federal/local law enforcement joint endeavor was targeting a pair of Phish shows to be held in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania in late July.   

In a memo shared far and wide on the web, the document carried the heading of “Washington County Sheriff’s Office” with an added note “Internal Dissemination Only.” The subject read: “Joint County Task Enforcement Operation ‘Phish in a Barrel’” with the next line indicating the operation was to be conducted at “Star Lake Amphitheatre July 21-22, 2023”, a concert venue outside of Pittsburgh. 

The memo listed the “chain of command” of the various agencies purported to be involved with this operation in hierarchical order, designated by phonetics: “Ops Alpha” was Dept. of Homeland Security, “Ops Bravo” was Washington Co Sheriff’s and “Ops Charlie” was the notorious Drug Enforcement Administration, just to throw an extra scare into any who believed this printed chicanery.  

The memo designated Highway 22 as the “primary checkpoint”, with Highway 18 as the “secondary” checkpoint in which anti-drug units with colorful nicknames like “Team Wolverine” and “Team Badger” would crack down on any would-be partying Phish fans. Perhaps using a code name based on an actual animal-based Phish song such as “Ocelot” or “Possum” might’ve been too obvious. 

Despite the memo seeming quite intentionally comical in hindsight, this document was strongly believed by the Phish and wider jam band communities for a period of time leading up to those concerts. 

So much so that Washington Co Sheriff Tony Andronas felt obligated to post on his Facebook page that “Phish in a Barrel” was indeed a hoax, and in fact, a similar prank had been played on the Virginia State Police in 2018. In that case, as with this most recent one, none of the perpetrators were identified.

Despite the hoax, it turns out the Washington County Sheriff’s Department still made their presence felt in the most unwelcome way at those Phish shows, as officers were actually on the Star Lake “lawn” (the general admission area behind the seats), as visually documented on social media. This time it was no hoax/prank, as photos posted on Reddit revealed the cops were disturbing and disrupting concertgoers’ good times, writing tickets for those merely smoking weed on the lawn. 

With paranoia over the “Phish in a Barrel” hoax being so widespread, in conjunction with all of the excessive actual busts from coast-to-coast, this demonstrates that law enforcement continues to prioritize drug enforcement over public safety at festivals and concerts—so let the attendee beware.

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Ketamine Shows Promise in Treating Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

Sub-anesthetic ketamine infusions, which are already used for treatment-resistant depression (TRD), may also help people through benzodiazepine withdrawal, new research published in Neuropsychopharmacology reports. 

Benzodiazepines (often abbreviated as “BZDs” or better known as “benzos”) are a class of psychoactive drugs that treat anxiety, insomnia, seizures, and muscle spasms. They include Xanax, Klonopin, and Ativan. And, as anyone who has taken any of those knows, benzos also feel really, really, good. 

Benzos work on the neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, which has inhibitory effects on the central nervous system. As a result, pills like Xanax lull you into calm and sedation and melt away worries like magic. For people with anxiety and panic disorders, there’s no shame in taking them, ideally on an as-needed basis and under a doctor’s supervision.

Benzos are delicious and dangerously so. They’re also super physically addictive, and benzo withdrawal is hell. Like, in addition to making your body hurt, giving you panic, anxiety, and insomnia (basically everything you started to take them for), you can also have heart palpitations and even seizures if not done correctly. The experience makes you feel like you’re not put together right and is so brutal that plenty of people end up right back on them. There’s also some evidence that long-term use could lead to cognitive decline. But, as it turns out, ketamine could not only offer patients with PTSD, anxiety, and depression an alternative to benzos but also help them safely and comfortably wean off them. 

In the recent study, 22 patients who have been taking benzos long-term (> six months in this case, which some reading this may say is nothing; plenty of people use benzos for years), with severe unipolar or bipolar treatment-resistant depression received a course of six subanesthetic ketamine infusions over four weeks. The researchers investigated the rates of successful BZDRs (benzos) deprescription, trajectories of acute psychological withdrawal symptoms, and subsequent BZDRs abstinence during a mean follow-up of one year. 

They also looked at significant deteriorations in depression, anxiety, sleep, and/or suicidality during the acute BZDR discontinuation phase. 

Of the 22 participants, 91% (20 out of 22) successfully discontinued all benzos by the end of the four weeks, which the researchers medically confirmed with a urine analysis. Less than 25% of the patients experienced any significant worsening of anxiety, depression, sleep difficulties, or suicidality during treatment, which is quite miraculous.

Furthermore, during the follow-up, with a mean duration of 12 [three – 24] months), 64% (14 out of 22) of patients remained abstinent from any benzos. Such findings suggest that ketamine infusions for TRD may also help people get off benzos, even if patients are still experiencing depression and anxiety, insomnia, and all the other comorbidities that come with it. 

It’s worth noting that one of the first things a ketamine provider will tell you, if you’re already on benzos, is to try to take as little as possible around the time you get an infusion, as benzos could make the depression-busting effects less effective. 

While ketamine therapy has shown to be revolutionary, whether treating depression or weaning one off benzos, it’s not without its own side effects. If you abuse ketamine, you can risk hurting your bladder or kidneys with ketamine bladder syndrome. Another, perhaps more immediate, concern regarding ketamine infusions is its accessibility. Ketamine infusions can cost a few hundred to thousands of dollars per session. The regimen for treatment-resistant depression is typically six sessions over two weeks; this study had its participants do the six sessions over four weeks) so there’s also a major time commitment; many people can’t get away from work that often. Because if you’re wondering if a nice ketamine infusion in the middle of the day can make it tricky to want to go back to the office, the answer is yes, yes, it can. 

Ketamine nasal spray is also available, famous for being the first psychedelic (it’s technically a dissociative anesthetic with hallucinogenic properties). The FDA-approved version is actually “esketamine,” the S enantiomer of ketamine, rather than regular ole’ ketamine, simply because that’s how Johnson & Johnson could patent and sell it under the brand name Spravato. Some doctors prescribe an off-label ketamine nasal spray that one can pick up at a compound pharmacy and use in the comfort of their home rather than trekking to a clinic. Although, of course, do this with someone around in case you take too much and need support or supervision. 

Ketamine is already valuable because it treats depression rapidly (SSRIs can take up to six weeks, while ketamine gets to work in a matter of hours). The news that it can also help people comfortably kick a Klonopin dependency is a much-needed and welcome breakthrough in treating mental health conditions. 

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COMPASS Pathways Secures $285 Million Towards Psychedelics for Mental Health

COMPASS Pathways, a biotechnology company dedicated to innovation in mental health, gained $285 million in private funding to research psychedelics, Behavioral Health Business reports. This amount should be enough to back their work through late 2025. By then, Biden willing, there is hope such treatment methods will have FDA approval. 

“We view this investment as a validation of the potential of psychedelic medicine and the importance of a rigorous and evidence-based approach,” Kabir Nath, CEO of COMPASS Pathways, said in the press release. Pathways named 11 investment firms led by TCGX and Aisling Capital, including Vivo Capital, RA Capital, Paradigm BioCapital Advisors LP, Logos Capital and Laurion Capital Management, and others. 

At the American Psychiatric Association (APA) 2022 Annual Meeting, COMPASS Pathways unveiled the “largest randomized, controlled, double-blind study of psilocybin therapy ever completed,” according to a May 2022 press release. The data shows “significant” improvements in treatment-resistant depression (TRD) symptoms using its synthetic psilocybin formulations (COMP360). 

Later that year, the London-based biotech company announced the phase 3 trial of treating treatment-resistant depression, which is the first-ever phase 3 study of psilocybin therapy. COMPASS Pathways is also working on phase 2 trials for the use of COMP360 in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anorexia nervosa.

Back in October of 2018, COMP360 for treatment-resistant patients secured the FDA’s Breakthrough Therapy designation, which is reserved for medical treatments demonstrating substantial evidence that they are better than the status quo. 

While antidepressants like SSRIs can take up to six weeks to kick in, psychedelics, such as psilocybin, can give relief to patients rapidly and, as this study aims to prove, more effectively. When someone is diagnosed with treatment-resistant depression, it’s assumed that they’ve already tried such avenues to no avail.

A 2020 study suggests that traditional antidepressants improve symptoms in about an extra 20 out of 100 people. Conversely, another study published in 2020 indicates that psilocybin is not only an effective and quick-acting treatment for depression disorder, but more than half of the study’s participants stayed in remission for up to four weeks following treatment. 

However, research also shows that serotonergic antidepressants like SSRIs and SNRIs can decrease psilocybin’s effects, so one should taper off these methods before diving into a psilocybin regimen. 

Currently, ketamine is the only psychedelic (technically, ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic with some hallucinogenic effects) that’s FDA-approved for mental health, although patients primarily use it off-label. 

COMPASS Pathways is not the only place looking into psilocybin therapy. Recently, doctors from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston began a trial for treating cancer-related anxiety and depression in patients by “examining the effects of psilocybin for patients with controlled advanced cancer on maintenance therapy experiencing challenges with mental health.” 

“Psychedelics, specifically psilocybin, have shown promise in treating various psychological symptoms including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and end-of-life distress,” the doctors wrote. “Although a study focusing on gynecologic cancers has not yet been completed, the studies with mixed cancer diagnosis are encouraging.”

Although psychedelics “modulate brain activity and have been associated with therapeutic effects such as increased neuroplasticity and modulation of reward pathways, not dissimilar to the mechanisms underlying the therapeutic mechanism of conventional antidepressants,” the researchers added that their work with psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy “suggests lasting benefits from just one to two sessions, compared with the chronic use that is needed with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.”

There may be even more advantages to psilocybin therapy than efficacy. A recent study published by the Cambridge University Press suggests that psilocybin-assisted therapy could be a “cost-effective” option compared to other forms of therapy. 

While some reports, one from President Joe Biden’s youngest brother, say the president is “very open-minded” about therapeutic psychedelics, other lawmakers, such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic Representative from New York, have vocalized concern that Biden may derail bipartisan efforts to address psychedelics due to his past conservative comments about cannabis. 

However, there is optimism that both psilocybin and MDMA will gain FDA approval by the end of the year, so despite Biden’s sometimes regressive stances, the changing attitudes towards psychedelics, combined with science from places such as COMPASS Pathways and others, should reign supreme and lead us towards safe and effective mental health treatments. 

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Woman Says Disney Imagery ‘Hijacked’ Her Experience In Ketamine Study

One woman’s experience in a clinical trial on ketamine therapy turned into a real Mickey Mouse operation. 

In a study published last month in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, a group of researchers based in Canada sought to “investigate how previous environmental stimuli shaped the experiences of patients receiving ketamine for treatment-resistant depression (TRD), and develop the concept of ‘imprinting’ to account for such time-lagged effects across diverse hallucinogenic drugs.”

“Psychedelic drug experiences are shaped by current-moment contextual factors, commonly categorized as internal (set) and external (setting). Potential influences of past environments, however, have received little attention,” they wrote.

The research team used recordings of treatment sessions and interviews involving 26 participants of the clinical trial, which entailed intravenous ketamine infusions for treatment-resistant depression from January of 2021 until August of 2022.

In detailing the results of the trial, the researchers zeroed in on two participants, a 28-year-old female and a 34-year-old male, whose “subjective ketamine experiences were significantly altered by varying exposures to particular forms of digital media in the days preceding treatments.”

The 34-year-old man described “a pixelated consciousness” while on ketamine, an experience owed to his habit of regularly playing as many as 16 hours of video games a day. 

“This patient’s first three ketamine experiences were characterized by vivid visual hallucinations described as ‘videogame-like’ in both content and form. I.e., he reported that most of his time during the infusion was spent reliving recent game experiences and he described ‘pixelated’ complex hallucinations that strongly resembled the aesthetic of video games like Minecraft, which he had played frequently in the days preceding the treatment sessions. He summed up his experiences as evidence that he had ‘a pixelated consciousness,’” the researchers wrote.

The 28-year-old woman’s experience was, well, a whole new world.

“The patient responded robustly to these first two ketamine treatments and described them as having many typical features of psychedelic therapy: feelings of connection, introspection, emotional processing, and mysticism. They resulted in rapid and significant improvements in depressive symptoms and suicidality, and the patient was discharged after six weeks in hospital with the plan for further infusions if necessary,” the researchers wrote in their evaluation of the patient. 

“Six months later, as an outpatient enrolled in the aforementioned clinical trial, she received a course of six ketamine infusions over four weeks with the same team, a nearly identical treatment protocol, and a similar treatment setting. Despite reporting a similar degree of psychedelic effects, her first outpatient ketamine treatment was described as having remarkably different phenomenology,” they added. “Namely, the patient reported that involuntary visual hallucinations of Disney iconography ‘hijacked’ her experience, greatly diminishing its mystical and emotional qualities.”

In an excerpt from one of the session’s recordings, the woman is quoted as saying that she “saw Disney stuff” but “didn’t want to.”

“It hijacked it! And it’s my fault for always scrolling through the ‘pins’… I’m just annoyed that I felt like I had the Band-Aid on. It felt like I almost ended up going to important things and then Disney frickin’ covered it up,” the patient said in the recording.

The researchers said that the exchange provides evidence that “the patient readily drew a link between this treatment’s visual images of Disney characters and her previously undisclosed habit of trading commemorative Disney pins on a social media forum.” 

“She described spending approximately six hours per day on this digital activity since many years, with the notable exception of her month-long hospitalization when she received her first two ketamine infusions. Of note, she also described various Disney-themed physical objects in her home environment though precise details are not available,” the researchers said. 

The post Woman Says Disney Imagery ‘Hijacked’ Her Experience In Ketamine Study appeared first on High Times.

Canadian Study Investigates Ketamine For Suicidal Children, Teens

Thanks to a new pilot study in British Columbia, the antidepressant effects of ketamine are being studied for youth fighting suicidal ideation, Cowichan Valley Citizen reports

B.C. Children’s Hospital Research Institute is conducting the study. Senior executive Dr. Quynh Doan said the study aims to find a faster and safer way to help youth in need before they reach the emergency room. When children come to the ER after attempting suicide, there is currently no standardized treatment. “We see them and assess their safety risk,” Doan said.

At subanesthetic doses, ketamine is a vital tool in treating depression and suicidal thoughts. Part of what makes it so unique is how quickly it works. As a 2020 study suggests, traditional antidepressants improve symptoms in about an extra 20 out of 100 people. Even for those who do respond, these antidepressants can take weeks to take effect. If someone is suicidal, they often don’t have this much time to sit around and see if such antidepressants work. There’s also a decent probability that if one is in the hospital for suicidal thoughts, they’ve already tried traditional medications, which haven’t worked. 

Ketamine treatment can show results within hours to days after administration and shows unique promise for those experiencing suicidal thoughts. Although most of this research comes from using off-label intravenous infusions, in 2019, a nasal spray called Spravato (esketamine) was approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment-resistant depression. A 2019 study gave patients with treatment-resistant depression received six infusions over the course of two weeks. They saw a notable improvement after the first dose, which continued to be effective in the month following. Typically, folks who receive ketamine infusions for depression or suicidal thoughts first go in for the initial six rounds. Then, they return for boosters as needed, from weekly to every few months.

And now, thanks to B.C. Children’s Hospital Research Institute, teenagers and youth may have a chance to experience such results. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people between 15 to 24 in the U.S., and almost 20% of high school students report severe thoughts of suicide. Nine percent have attempted to take their lives, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“If we find that this works and is safe, we could give ketamine to kids who are distressed with acute suicidal thoughts in the emergency department, get them feeling better while resources can be put in place and the psychotherapy or the antidepressants start working,” Doan said in a statement. This would allow the patients to recover in the comfort of their families. “If we can set up a safety plan at home, then the young person goes home and their family watches them like a hawk for the next few days and weeks,” Doan said. 

The study (there is currently a similar one happening in San Diego) includes kids between the ages of ten to 16 with suicidal urges. They aim to have 96 patients for the pilot. Each patient will get one of three options: a low dose of ketamine, a placebo, or another kind of sedative. They will then be monitored over the next hours to weeks. 

B.C. Children’s Hospital Research Institute plans to measure the recovery of the patients using three different scales. Whichever is most effective will be implemented on a larger version of the study. Doan aims to conduct the following research at 11 locations across Canada to collect even more data on this potentially life-saving treatment. “If using ketamine works for children and youth with suicidal ideation, it’s going to dramatically improve how we take care of these kids,” Doan said. “It will change the experience of youth and families dealing with this challenging condition.”

The post Canadian Study Investigates Ketamine For Suicidal Children, Teens appeared first on High Times.

Woman Becomes First Person To Be Imprisoned for CBD in Hong Kong

A 32-year-old woman was recently put in prison for possession of CBD in Hong Kong. According to a report from Agence France-Presse (AFP), she has become the first person to receive a criminal conviction for CBD since Hong Kong officially banned it earlier this year. Now it’s illegal to possess, consume, or sell CBD products, and is categorized the same as substances like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine.

The woman carried two CBD products when going through customs on March 29 when she was traveling from the U.S. to Hong Kong. According to the report, she also carried 2.2 grams of ketamine and 10 “syringes,” although it was not specified if they were empty or contained a specific substance.

On July 7, the woman was sentenced to two months in prison for two counts of drug possession and one count for the syringes. A Hong Kong customs official stated that her conviction “reflects the seriousness of the offence and serves as a clear warning to the general public.”

Hong Kong’s current law states that offenders caught with CBD can receive up to seven years in prison, with fines up to HK$1 million (approximately US$128,000). Those who are caught importing, exporting, or manufacturing CBD receive harsher punishments. One of the main reasons that authorities say led to the ban was because CBD can potentially be converted to THC.

China banned CBD in topical or cosmetic products back in 2021, and Hong Kong followed suit earlier this year in February. “Starting from February 1, cannabidiol, aka CBD, will be regarded as a dangerous drug and will be supervised and managed by the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance,” a customs intelligence officer stated. “As of then, transporting CBD for sale, including import and export, as well as producing, possessing and consuming CBD, will be illegal.”

Chan Kai-ho, a divisional commander with the department’s Airport Command, added in a statement that they plan to do whatever it takes to enforce the law. “We will tackle all kinds of dangerous drugs from all angles and all ends, and the intelligence-led enforcement action is our major goal,” Chan said.

Since then, officials have stated that within the first three months of its CBD ban they had already arrested six people, although up until now no one has gone to prison for a CBD conviction. Officials also stated that they had seized 852 CBD products within that time frame, which were described with a value of around $16,600 and were all taken from people entering Hong Kong.

Back in September 2020, Hong Kong first CBD café, called Found, opened and offered a wide variety of CBD-based products, such as CBD oil, powders to be used in food, butters, pet products, infused beer, and coffee. However, it announced in August 2022 that it would be closing down due to the incoming ban. “Sadly, in spite of the demonstrable positive impact, it has now become apparent that the Hong Kong government intends to adopt new legislation to prohibit the sale and possession of CBD,” Found wrote on its Instagram page. “While we do not know exactly when it will take effect, it is expected to happen sometime around the end of 2022 or early 2023. With this, we have had to make the difficult decision to close the Found café at the end of September.”

In May, a large amount of cocaine and cannabis, valued at HK$650 million (US$83 million), was seized by Hong Kong police. Labeled as the biggest seizure of the year, “The cannabis flower buds seized this time were stored among frozen fish,” explained Chief Inspector Charm Yiu-kwong. “We believe the drug cartel used this method … in an attempt to cover up the odor of marijuana with the frozen fish’s pungent smell.” According to Hong Kong law, a maximum sentence for drug trafficking can lead to life in prison.

The post Woman Becomes First Person To Be Imprisoned for CBD in Hong Kong appeared first on High Times.

Elon Musk’s Alleged Ketamine Use May Risk His Security Clearance

Summary: Elon Musk’s alleged use of ketamine, a controlled substance, during social events could potentially threaten his security clearance, according to two national security law specialists. Musk, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, has previously been scrutinized by the federal government for his drug use. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Musk uses ketamine in small doses to treat depression and in larger amounts at parties. While the government has become more tolerant of marijuana use in recent years, it takes the use of hallucinogens like ketamine very seriously. If an investigation into Musk’s security clearance is initiated, he will have the opportunity to respond.

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Elon Musk’s Security Clearance Under Threat Due to Alleged Ketamine Use

According to two attorneys specializing in national security law, Elon Musk’s alleged use of ketamine, a controlled substance, during parties may potentially put his security clearance at risk. Musk, who serves as the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, has previously faced government scrutiny regarding his drug usage. In 2019, the Defense Department reviewed Musk’s clearance following his apparent marijuana consumption on Joe Rogan’s podcast.

In China and Hong Kong using CBD is a crime…

Recently, The Wall Street Journal reported that Musk uses ketamine, both in small doses to combat depression and in larger quantities at social gatherings. While marijuana use has become more tolerable in recent years, the government treats the use of hallucinogens like ketamine more seriously.

In the event that an investigation into Musk’s clearance is initiated, he will be afforded the opportunity to provide a response. This situation highlights the ongoing debate about drug use and its potential implications for individuals in high-profile positions, particularly those with access to sensitive information. It also raises questions about the broader societal and legal perspectives on drug use, as well as the potential for reform in these areas.

[Source: Business Insider]

No, Deta-8 THC is not for kids…


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The post Elon Musk’s Alleged Ketamine Use May Risk His Security Clearance appeared first on Cannadelics.