It has been over three years since I first published thoughts on a universal paradigm shift that I felt was starting to take root… An expanded understanding and yearning for information on topics that ranged from self-care and physical wellbeing, to scratching the surface of acceptance of medicines that go beyond the physical, to beginning to unravel the mysteries that surround our human consciousness, spirituality, and mental wellness.
"The Psychedelic Renaissance"
That paradigm shift I alluded to has continued to rapidly evolve, shedding the constraints of a mere shift in thinking, to what has been labeled a “Psychedelic Renaissance” by author, Michael Pollan, in a NY Times article. We are reading about, and even using medically approved substances that were once amongst the upper echelon of drugs that only the counter-culture, risk-taking, esoteric, hippies consumed to tune in and drop out. Now these drugs are being researched and developed, undergoing FDA trials, and will be used routinely by therapists, doctors, and psychiatrists within the next year or so.
Psychology and Pharmaceuticals
There are many subjective reasons as to the catalyst of this renaissance. An obvious reason is the necessity of something new, profound, and game changing in the vast field of mental health. Psychology is still very much in its infancy, as it was not until the late 1800s that it became accepted as its own academic discipline. Before that time, the workings of the mind were considered studies left to the philosophers or those who studied morals and mental abilities.
Only slowly has there been a switch from soul science to behavioral science. Patients and doctors, as a result, started questioning the efficacy of the psychological gold standard of blindly prescribing antidepressants. SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) such as Celexa, Prozac, Lexapro, and Paxil and SNRIs (Serontonin and Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitors) like Cymbalta and Effexor, were given to patients in a blind attempt to see what works, a trial-and-error system destined to fail at some point. This shift in ideology, and quest for answers, was just occurring, and starting to mature simultaneously as a new threat to mankind emerged.
A new nondescript virus was also introducing itself to the world… a virus that came to be known as Covid-19. As the virus spread rapidly throughout China and the world, mankind found themselves abandoned by modern medicine, for the first time since the 1918 H1N1 flu virus that caused the deadliest pandemic of the 20th century. In a time when uncertainty and fear started to take root, people started seeking answers from nature, within themselves, and through spirituality.
Enter psychedelics, now an entire field of anecdotal, academic, shamanic, and medicinal/physiological ideologies. Doctors, scientists, and even governments are beginning to take serious notice. Legitimacy would be further ingrained when those same people began seeking answers from the actual practitioners of psychedelic therapy and body/brain optimization. The psychedelic renaissance is now being realized through education and normalization by mainstream publications such as Vogue, Forbes, and Psychology Today. While this is a definite sign of advancement in acceptance of the medicines, the true sign of a movement’s legitimacy lies in the roots of capitalism and business creation.
The Business of Mental Health
2020 saw what can be called a was a banner year for investors in psychedelic companies such as Mind Medicine (MindMed) Inc. (OTCQB: MMEDF), 20/20 Global, Inc. (OTC: TWGL), Compass Pathways (NASDAQ: CMPS), and Numinus Wellness Inc. (OTC: LKYSF) saw their money double, triple, and even quadruple. The reason for this may have many facets, yet the core reason for this increased interest in psychedelics is improved mental health, specifically depression.
Depression is a common mental disorder affecting more than 264 million people worldwide. Mental health experts have found a solid link between loneliness and depression as well as drug overdoses and suicide. According to National Drug Abuse data, “drug overdoses have increased 42%” since Covid-19 reared itself to the world. As a result, mental health disorders are on the rise, if not spiking, in every country and could cost the global economy upwards of $16 trillion annually by 2030. The numbers are staggering without question, but dollars are always outweighed by the loss of human lives. Mental health is something every one of us should be talking about openly, honestly, and genuinely.
A final, yet massive indicator of a thriving renaissance is the creation of teaching hospitals and facilities from the like the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, a new center backed by over $17 million in funding. They are not alone, however, in paving the way by exploring innovative treatments using psychedelics.
There are initiatives and commitments in places from the University of California (Los Angeles), New York University, Imperial College London, the University of Zurich, Mt. Sinai, the Mayo Clinic, and even faith based medical centers. While these undertakings are a great sign for the advancement of understanding the healing power of these often-sacred medicines, it has not always been the case.
Psychedelics in the past
In the early 1970s research into psychedelic medicine ground to an unwarranted, unfortunate, and premature halt. Governments worldwide began to classify psychedelics as illegal on the grounds they were drugs prone to abuse and therefore had no medical value, but that was by no means to be the real reason many were left to conclude. Understandably, some people are not truly convinced that everyone in government has their best interest in mind on every decision.
The Recurring Revenue Band-Aid
In the U.S. alone, the mental health and substance abuse services industry includes over 18,000 facilities with combined annual revenue of approximately $50 billion. That combined with ancillary services and those revenues easily jump to well over $300 billion. The global antidepressant market is poised to reach over $35 billion this year as mental health issues are expected to surge due to the current and lasting effects of the pandemic.
Even though quantum leaps in modern medicine have been made since the early 1970s, overall, with the exception of SSRIs and SNRIs introduced in the 1980s and flooding the market in 1990s, the mental health industry has not had major advancements in pharmacological therapies for mood disorders, even as demand rose. After all, why solve a massive problem when you can put on a recurring revenue band-aid?
Legal Psychedelics are Coming
And one is already here… Esketamine in March 2019. Johnson & Johnson developed the ketamine derivative as a nasal spray called Spravato, used for the treatment of depression. Prior to then, ketamine was being used off-label in a handful of clinics around the country and clinics have steady increased in numbers over the past several years.
Now focus has rapidly switched to MDMA and its untapped potential for treating PTSD. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (M.A.P.S.), which many regard as the a leader in psychedelic research, is currently in phase three trials for the drug and has been designated as a breakthrough therapy with the FDA. Within the next year we are expected to see it available in clinics around the United States. And that is really exciting news!
Following closely behind, and also with a breakthrough designation is psilocybin, or magic mushrooms, for the treatment of treatment-resistant depression. Further, we are seeing cities beginning to decriminalize not only psilocybin, but in some cases, all plant medicine.
While many are turning to psychedelic medicines for their mental health, there is also strong evidence showing that when psychedelic medicines are used as an entheogen, the ensuing mind/body tandem repair allows for one’s inert spirituality to play a vital role in the overall success of mental or physical treatments. An entheogen is defined as a chemical substance, typically of plant origin, that is consumed to produce a non ordinary state of consciousness for religious or spiritual purposes or for the purpose of engendering spiritual development. For the sake of this article, psychedelic and entheogen are relating to the same overall field of semblance.
As the universal collective consciousness (that is another entire article altogether) shifts toward acceptance of these medicines, you will need a primer guide to keep up with the conversations around the virtual water cooler. And that primer guide can be found right here.