Listen to this content
What could be the biggest breakthrough in modern mental health treatments isn’t getting much love from big pharmaceutical companies— despite evidence shoring its extreme potential. We want to know why.
Did you know you can buy shrooms in Canada? That parts of the US have gone as far as decriminalizing personal possession of psychedelics, and are quickly moving toward legalizing them for medical purposes? That a medicinal mushroom dispensary is on your doorstep? Chances are, if you’re not a part of the psychedelic revolution, this may come as news to you. However, flick on any TV in the states and you’ll be bombarded with advertisements heralding smiling faces and happy couples all thanks to Prozac, Lexapro, Paxil, Zoloft, and an entire alphabet’s worth of antidepressants.
How is it that we are more familiar with these medications— whether we take them for ourselves or not— than we are familiar with the flora and fauna that grow in our backyards? Why are we primed to get more excited at the promise of taking a pill that dramatically alters the way our bodies were built to function, as opposed to munching on a mushroom that merely mimics our beneficial bodily properties? In a word? Money. Money motivates, money markets, money medicates. And so far, there doesn’t seem to be much money (either in production or research) in psychedelics, despite the data that’s saying it could be the exact substance that we have been searching for for decades.
New Frontiers in Mental Health
While the world looks on as major players in the global economy begin to rethink their positions on the historic scheduling of naturally occurring hallucinogens like psilocybin, it seems that big pharmaceutical companies are choosing to sit this one out. Perhaps because of the resolute focus on vaccine production and effective COVID-19 treatments, lack of research, or inability to secure patents— whatever the motivating factor is, many are still scratching their heads as to why pharmaceutical companies haven’t begin to curl their wide-reaching fingers around what many believe to be the “miracle drug” for modern mood disorders. Of which there are plenty.
It’s estimated that in Canada alone, 1 in 5 adults will struggle with mental health issues at some point in their lives. Worldwide, suicide rates have skyrocketed and professionals are bracing for the impending wave of mental health disturbances in response to the current pandemic and its associated lockdowns and economic repercussions. Which means that the next pandemic to prepare for might not be viral at all. Which would also suggest that should big Pharma want to reap the financial benefits from this soon to be crisis, they had better begin to pay attention to mental health medication and treatments.
Perhaps the most motivating factor behind big Pharma taking their time to introduce psychedelics into their arsenal isn’t necessarily that they don’t work, or aren’t profitable, but because research on their efficacy has been slowed or barred because of governmental red tape. Psilocybin, along with many other psychedelics have been dubbed a ‘schedule I’, meaning that as far as the government is concerned, they’re useless and dangerous. Which makes gaining quality research hard to come by.
The Price of Business
Research is expensive. Creating new drugs is expensive. Marketing, packaging, testing, quality assurance— all of these things are not cheap. Especially if there is only anecdotal evidence to support the fact that psychedelics could indeed provide genuine help to those in need. But, there are also the long term costs to be considered. In a study to be published later this year, two 25mg doses of psilocybin were shown to be more effective at treating depressive disorders than the legacy drug escitalopram.
Escitalopram, or better known as its brand name Lexapro, is a selective serotonin Reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), the gold standard of antidepressant medication in today’s market. SSRIs aren’t just taken for months or years (or in some cases, even life times) at a time, but they are often taken several times a day and require “loading doses” or a strict regime in order to guarantee lasting effects. They also can’t be abruptly stopped— as they can cause some serious damage if they are. Which, if you’re following along means that SSRIs require many more doses than psychedelics would.
Which means more pills sold, leading to more money made. Pharmaceutical companies aren’t generally invested in systems that cure, largely because treating is much more lucrative. Which could reasonably explain while these companies are sitting on their laurels in the face of what could be a massive revolution in mental health treatments. However, lack of viable research could also easily explain the hesitancy in getting on board with rolling out psychedelics. So it’s a difficult call to make in the present situation.
Make No Mistake— The Mushroom Dispensary is Coming
Despite the fact that big Pharma has yet to jump on the speeding train that is psychedelic therapy, science and DIY supporters definitely have. Which has allowed for a number of online medicinal mushroom dispensaries to open up. Selling small, predosed mushroom capsules expressly designed for microdosing. Which could reasonably be the doormat that welcomes in pharmaceutical companies. Particularly if science begins to look deeper into the claims of microdosing benefits.
Microdosing, or what is microdosing— is the act of taking sub-hallucinogenic doses of traditional psychedelics, like psilocybin or LSD. These minuscule amounts don’t produce any hallucinations, or altered states of consciousness, instead working quietly in the background. According to a recent meta analysis, the system of microdosing psilocybin in particular is incredibly promising. Specifically when applied to bipolar depression and treatment resistant major depressive disorder.
Despite the promise found, however, data was lacking. Even when calling from multiple years and multiple studies, sample sizes were still frustratingly small. Which means that while there is indication that microdosing could be a viable treatment for mood disorders— few have had the opportunity to really look into the effects of the treatment system. However, while scientific data is still scant, an nearly overwhelming amount of anecdotal evidence abounds. With positive self-reports pouring in from all over the globe. Which suggests two very important, and very encouraging, things: Firstly, microdosing psilocybin, even as an untrained professional, is relatively safe. And second, that the system seems to work. Even in the absence of laboratories and mental health professionals. Which could mean that this particular system of mood management will be accessible to all— regardless of whether big Pharma jumps on board or not.