In the face of escalating climate, economic and mental health crises, millions are seeking legal, safe ways to experience magic mushrooms (psilocybin) and other psychoactive plant medicines to bring meaning, solace and remedial solutions.
As the world grapples with unprecedented natural disasters, economic meltdown and mental health crises, retreats using magic mushrooms (containing psilocybin) and other psychedelic medicines are experiencing a major surge in popularity as people search for meaning and healing and actively seek solutions to our escalating global problems.
While psychedelics were outlawed in 1968 following widespread recreational abuse in the 60s, research over the last 20 years highlighting the therapeutic and mental health benefits of drugs like psilocybin and LSD has generated a resurgence of interest, creating fertile ground for Michael Pollan’s groundbreaking 2018 book How to Change Your Mind – and follow up 2022 Netflix series – to catapult these powerful substances into mainstream awareness.
Legalisation is also progressing: Australia became the first country to legalise psilocybin for medical use in July, Awakn Life Sciences opened its first psychedelic psychotherapy clinic in London in 2022, and psychedelic therapy is now legal in the US states of Oregon and Colorado with other states and countries set to jump on the bandwagon.
Hailed as a new travel trend in 2023, psychonauts across Europe are flocking to The Netherlands as the only country on the continent where psychedelics can be experienced legally due to a loophole in the law.
Jennifer Tessler, Director and Founder of Alalaho, which – operating in The Netherlands – pioneered the first legal psychedelic retreats in Europe from 2016 (initially under the banner of the UK Psychedelic Society), and is holding its next Alalaho retreats in October and December, says: “Since Michael Pollan’s How to Change Your Mind millions of people have been seeking out ways to experience psychedelics in a legal and safe way to catalyse healing, growth and mystical experience.
“Psychedelic medicines can expand your perception, bring new insights and awaken past memories as well as your innate wisdom to heal your trauma.
“They give you access to a wellspring of inner resources that can help you shift stuck patterns and unwanted behaviours and support you to reconnect with your innate joy, your connection to the natural world and to The Great Mystery of Life.
“Alalaho was borne out of a desire to effect change in the face of our global environmental, social and mental health crises. Often people on our retreats report feeling a deep sense of belonging and interconnectedness with nature and with other people, which can awaken an impulse to care more for others and to take action to protect our environment and our shared lives on this planet.”
While magic mushrooms are actually now illegal in The Netherlands, Alalaho’s retreat participants are afforded a legitimate psilocybin experience by ingesting mushroom truffles, the mycelial body of the fungi found in clumps underground.
The retreats are held in beautiful rural retreat venues cushioned in nature, where ‘Set and Setting’ – the vital determining factors for an optimum psychedelic journey – are carefully optimised to support participants to let go into a receptive, trusting state of mind.
To deepen the experience, Alalaho’s retreats bring a unique psychospiritual and heart-centred approach, buoyed by exercises and tools from the Western clinical model, somatic and transpersonal psychology, as well as from Buddhism and shamanic practices.
Tessler – who brings to this rich mix her background as a transpersonal psychotherapist and 15+ years intensive training in Tibetan Buddhism and meditation – will be launching a new Alalaho psychedelic retreat for meditators in May 2024 in collaboration with the UK Psychedelic Society, which will explore the synergy between contemplative practices, non-ordinary states of consciousness and therapeutic work.
Dr Lauren Macdonald, a survivor of stage IV cancer – who having experienced profound healing during an Alalaho retreat went on to train as a guide before joining Alalaho’s facilitation team – says: “My life has been forever changed by the retreat. I’d hoped the experience would help me feel less fearful of dying, but it’s given me so much more – it has helped me come back to life. I feel more connected to myself, friends, family and our beautiful, fragile planet.
“I now see how alive and awe-inspiring nature and the world around us is. I have also learned that it’s through connection – with oneself, with Spirit, with nature, and with each other – that healing and transformation happens.”
As public perception of psychedelics shifts, many celebrities have started to speak out about how psychedelic medicines have transformed their lives, from Joe Rogan, Elon Musk and Gwyneth Paltrow to Mike Tyson, Harry Styles and Miley Cyrus. Exalting the powers of peyote, Sting has described how “the meaning of the universe cracked open”, and Prince Harry has credited both psilocybin and ayahuasca for helping him deal with mental health issues.
Many refer to the skyrocketing fervour surrounding psychedelics as ‘The Pollan effect’, with some critical of the hype engendered as millions turn to these drugs as a miracle cure for innumerable ills.
Jennifer Tessler says: “Psychedelics create peak experiences which are not a fix-all panacea, and it would be unhelpful for people to expect to return from a psychedelic retreat in a state of bliss, cured of all their problems.
“The reality is more complex, the retreats can be challenging, sometimes shining a light on emotional wounds or traumas which keep us blocked and need healing. However, with proper integration to deepen any arising insights, complimented with some useful holistic practices, they can provide profound, long-lasting change.”
Psychedelic therapy programmes launch to address heartbreak, burnout and more
Mindbloom has launched its new Mastermind Series of psychedelic programmes for overcoming heartbreak, burnout and other unique mental health challenges.
Led by and developed with leading experts in the field, each programme combines specialised teachings with ketamine therapy.
All programmes will include six ketamine therapy sessions focusing on a specific mental health issue, expert-led audio, video, and written content for preparation, treatment, and integration, practical tools such as meditation, one-on-one coaching and group integration sessions.
The first programme in the Series is ‘Recovering from Rejection and Failure’, led by Dr Guy Winch who is a leading authority on emotional health, and a best-selling author and TED speaker whose talks have received over 30 million views.
Winch’s programme focuses on healing and preventing emotional injuries that people suffer in their personal, professional and romantic lives.
Mindbloom CEO and Founder Dylan Beynon stated: “More than 100 studies and 20 plus years of clinical use show that ketamine therapy may be the most transformational mental health treatment available today.
“In the face of epidemics of mental illness, addiction, and loneliness, we’re thrilled to offer our clients access to top experts across a range of issues – and to pair their expertise with our best-in-class ketamine therapy honed over hundreds of thousands of treatment sessions.”
“Emotional wounds like rejection and failure can be even more devastating than physical wounds, yet we don’t give them the same time and attention,” added Dr Winch.
“I’m thrilled to combine my techniques for emotional first aid with ketamine therapy, which has been shown to increase neuroplasticity and help build emotional resilience.”
“Americans are struggling with heartbreak, burnout, and other challenges every day, and they’re looking for new tools to address them,” said Mindbloom’s Medical Director Dr Leonardo Vando.
“I’m grateful to these experts for providing Mindbloom’s clients with the unique practices and insights they’ve cultivated during their distinguished careers, to help them overcome the biggest obstacles in their lives.”
Mychedelica launches to revolutionise psychedelic medicine
A new company specialising in psychedelic medicine – mychedelica – is offering a comprehensive suite of services to support the advancement of this transformative field.
With a team of experienced medical writers and research support specialists, mychedelica is committed to providing the highest quality services to researchers, clinicians, and pharmaceutical companies working in the psychedelic medicine space.
Psychedelic medicine is rapidly gaining recognition for its potential to treat a wide range of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, addiction, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, the field is still in its early stages of development, and there is a critical need for high-quality medical writing and research support services to facilitate its progress.
CEO of mychedelica, Bilal Bham, commented: “We are thrilled to launch mychedelica and contribute to the advancement of psychedelic medicine.
“Our team of experienced professionals is dedicated to providing the highest quality services to researchers, clinicians, and pharmaceutical companies working in this groundbreaking field.”
mychedelica provides a comprehensive range of services, including:
Medical writing: Experienced medical writers will craft clinical trial protocols, regulatory submissions, and peer-reviewed publications, ensuring that research findings are communicated clearly and effectively.
Funding research support: Experts in grant writing and fundraising strategies will assist researchers in securing funding for their psychedelic medicine studies.
Regulatory consulting: mychedelica’s team of regulatory experts will navigate the complex regulatory landscape surrounding psychedelic medicine, ensuring that clinical trials and products comply with all applicable laws and regulations.
With its commitment to quality and innovation, mychedelica is poised to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of psychedelic medicine. The company’s services will empower researchers to conduct rigorous clinical trials, clinicians to provide effective treatments, and pharmaceutical companies to develop safe and effective psychedelic medicines.
Short Wave Pharma: innovating eating disorder care with psychedelics
Psychedelic Health speaks to Short Wave Pharma CEO Rivki Stern about the company’s plans to innovate eating disorder care through psychedelics and its recent acquisition by Psych Capital.
Short Wave Pharma was recently acquired by global investment firm Psych Capital. The companies are on a mission to transform mental health care, focusing on innovative approaches and treatments, including psychedelics, which are increasingly gaining acceptability as clinical research results accumulate.
Short Wave Pharma’s clinical programmes are particularly focused on Anorexia nervosa – a complex mental health condition with one of the highest fatality rates. Despite the condition being associated with high rates of suicide, it is a hugely underserved area of mental health, with no FDA-approved pharmacological drug, and a high rate of chronicity.
The company has developed a novel delivery method and drug combination specifically designed to address the requirements of this vulnerable population. Short Wave focuses on methods of delivery that will be effective for Anorexia, which is a metabolic disease as well as a mental health condition. Its unique buccal film delivery method is intended to affect the brain while bypassing the liver and gut degradation through mucoadhesive absorption.
“Our goal is to alleviate, solve, and treat mental health conditions. It’s a dire need in our global society, and it’s constantly on the rise,” commented Stern. “Eating disorders are a very good example of that and we have seen a very alarming growth since COVID.
“What drew our attention to psychedelics is that they have the potential to address very complex mental health diseases and have been designated by FDA as breakthrough medicine for life-threatening conditions.
“Because there are no current solutions, we must harness very innovative approaches and potential solutions. That’s why we started working with psychedelics which may be difficult because they are not regulated, but we don’t shy away from challenges.”
The company’s drug is based on psilocybin and another API which together utilise an expanded mechanism of action and a therapeutic effect superior to psilocybin alone, impacting more than one group of receptors in the brain.
The delivery method is sensitive to the patients’ needs – who may not want to swallow or be injected – and is known for its high bioavailability.
“By mucosal absorption, we are speeding the onset of the medicine and amplifying the impact which will help tackle the patients’ metabolic challenges and improve acceptance,” says Stern.
The drug product and delivery method are currently in preparation for Phase 1 clinical studies, and in its current preclinical studies, the company is validating its delivery and expanded mechanisms of action. So far, initial safety results are positive, with a further, more in-depth toxicity study taking place.
Psych Capital – which is a public investment and awareness platform for mental health, and has a portfolio of innovative companies – has supported Short Wave Pharma’s IP-driven approach to eating disorder care through its recent acquisition of the company.
Short Wave and Psych Capital say they are aligned in their missions to innovate mental healthcare and deliver transformative care in areas of high unmet need.
Stern commented: “We all share a passion for innovation and together have decades of experience in evaluating investments as well as scaling up R&D projects and start-ups in life sciences.
“We have a shared commitment to alleviate the suffering from mental health. Every one of us has experienced the frustration and challenges of dealing with mental health issues.
“Together, we’re going to put this commitment into action, by bringing forth innovative solutions and developments and getting them through the first stages of development, from discovery through to early phases of clinical study.
“With psychedelics components, this is extra challenging because of their status as scheduled drugs within a still evolving regulatory framework, which adds uncertainty to the drug development process.
“Short Wave Pharma has operational expertise in early-stage drug development which will bring extra value to the group’s projects as they develop through our funnel and grow into promising candidates for mental healthcare.
“We want to identify the gems, guide them through clinical development, and create the right network to attract the right partners for further development and commercialisation.”
Short Wave Pharma is planning to enter its treatment into clinical studies in 2024.
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