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Psychedelics Are Making Big Strides in the Academic and Business World

Once a pariah, psychedelics are now more accepted.

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In recent years, there has been a rising interest in the beneficial uses of psychedelics within the scientific community, investors, and policymakers.

In Canada, legislators want to decriminalize psychedelics while academics are researching psychedelics for medicinal purposes to treat mental health issues.

This year, Ottawa restored doctors' ability to request access to psilocybin and MDMA after eight years of excluding the non-market prescriptions. Additionally, the B.C. government is transforming mental health and substance use services in the province by instituting exemptions under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) to ease criminal penalties for people who possess a small amount of certain illicit substances for personal use.

"In the near future, we're going to see proprietary compounds containing psychedelics, for example, psilocybin or MDMA, complete the FDA approval process," said Courtney Barnes, an attorney leading in drug policy reform. "I believe that as more cities and states get to push legalization via grassroots efforts, we have the potential to see a widespread access model one day."

Related: Are Psychedelics Finally Going Mainstream? New Poll Has Answers.

Psychedelic Use in the U.S.

The transnational shift to relax drug laws has taken a significant step forward in the U.S., as well. In 2020, Oregon became the first state to legalize psilocybin. Other cities and states have moved to loosen the consequences for personal or small use of noncommercial amounts of psychedelics, providing evidence that local governments are revising their approach and warming up to reform the legal frameworks.

Last July, legislators in the House of Representatives voted in favor of a handful of drug policy amendments that are now part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The revisions would include a raft of policies, such as requiring the Department of Defense (DOD) to investigate psychedelics like MDMA and psilocybin as treatments for PTSD and chronic pain and enabling DOD leaders to issue grants for such research.

Giant Strides in Psychedelic Research

Academics and business executives are taking psychedelic medicine seriously as a treatment tool for mental health conditions.

This July, MindBio Therapeutics researchers in a joint program with the University of Auckland in New Zealand received NZ$1.44 million in funding from the Health Research Council of New Zealand to conduct a trial of LSD (Lysergic Acid Diethylamide) microdosing in patients with chronic depressive disorder.

"This game-changing new funding announcement in government funding for LSD microdosing clinical trials shows government reaffirmed commitment to investment in mental health care," said Justin Hanka, Co-Founder & Executive Director of Mindbio Therapeutics. "This funding is critical to helping us research what could potentially revolutionize the treatment of Mental health conditions."

MindBio Therapeutics is leading clinical studies into the microdosing range of medical conditions such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, panic disorder, chronic pain, and opiate addictions. The company remains the only organization in the world to have successfully obtained government approvals for a doctor to prescribe LSD to patients who take the drug unsupervised in the community the same way they would take any other medicine.

Later this year, Enveric Biosciences, a cutting-edge neuroscience company developing next-generation, psychedelic-inspired mental health medicines, is planning to work with the University of Calgary's Hotchkiss Brain Institute, to establish a groundbreaking clinical trial of EVM-101 for the treatment of Cancer Related Distress. The pharma company and academic institution will explore the viability of a psychedelic treatment to help patients suffering from cancer-related distress.

"With the rising rates of cancer and its associated psychological ailments that have been underestimated and underdiagnosed until recently, we are working hard to develop new treatments that help cancer patients suffering from CRD" said Dr. Bob Dagher, Enveric's Chief Medical Officer. "Our collaboration with the research team at the University of Calgary's Hotchkiss Brain Institute and IMPACT Clinical Trial Accelerator will help us to demonstrate the potential benefits of these novel treatments and get them to market as quickly as possible."

A groundbreaking study performed by John Hopkins Medicine found that those ingesting psilocybin mushrooms in small quantities reported better moods and mental health. Similarly, widespread media coverage such as Paul Stamets's Fantastic Fungi documentary and Michael Pollan's book How to Change Your Mind has helped broaden acceptance of these substances as tools for confronting the mental health crisis. The drastic rise in the research interest has helped Johns Hopkins Medicine secure nearly $4 million in US grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for more research over the next three years.

"The scientific and medical community is finding that psychedelic drugs, often in combination with therapy, can be beneficial across various psychiatric and neurologic diseases. Depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and chronic pain are just a few areas of current focus," Dr. George Mashour, an anesthesiologist and neuroscientist, told PBS. "The science on psychedelics is exploding," Mashour added.

As the field of psychedelic therapy expands, and the level of interest in the investing community increases, investing funds look to manage expectations.

Ken Belotsky, partner at Negev Capital, a psychedelic medical intervention investment fund with $30 million under its management, believes that the industry has tremendous potential, but for long-term investors who understand the regulatory hurdles.

"In this market, you must do your homework and strengthen your conviction fundamentally," Belotsky said. "This industry is still at its early stages, and naturally, there's going to be turbulence along the way, especially on the regulatory front."