“Psychedelics are the next big thing,” Ronan Levy, co-founder of Field Trip Psychedelics, an integrated company in legal psychedelics and psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, told me during a lunch in New York City a few months ago. He looked perfectly sane, wearing a suit, and articulating properly.
He was definitely not tripping.
But what the hell did he mean by psychedelics are the next big thing? Did he really think America would be taking mushrooms like they do beer?
I was very skeptical.
But it’s not about recreational use, really, he explained. Although psychedelics can be used for recreation, and there’s nothing wrong with that, for Levy it’s all about the therapeutic potential of these substances, which can be used in the treatment of depression, PTSD, and other conditions.
“The evidence supporting the therapeutic use of psychedelics is becoming too compelling to ignore,” he told me.
Field Trip also plans to open clinics globally, taking a “broad spectrum approach” to backing psychedelic research, starting with applications in mental health and building cultivation centers for medical-grade magic mushrooms, he explained.
I almost forgot about that conversation in New York, even though the buzz around psychedelics continued to build, and I met other people either developing businesses in the space or investing in them. Even a dedicated, beautiful magazine, DoubleBlind, was launched in the U.S. earlier this year.
But then, Field Trip came out with an exciting announcement about a venture in Jamaica.
“The evidence supporting the therapeutic use of psychedelics is becoming too compelling to ignore.”
I was coincidentally in Jamaica for a cannabis conference at the time. This felt like a sign; I could not ignore the news: Field Trip was partnering with the University of West Indies to create what’s believed to be the world’s first legal research and cultivation facility for psilocybin-producing mushrooms. They would research their properties and potential to treat conditions such as depression, anxiety and possibly, a number of other mental health conditions.
I did cover the announcement, but once again didn’t make much of it. I was still taking a “show me” approach.
Mainstream acceptance of psychedelics seemed very far fetched. Yes, my 72-year-old mom could cozy up to the idea of cannabis being medicine, but I don’t see her cozying up to MDMA or shrooms.
People told me I was being myopic or narrow-minded: “How can you, a weed reporter of all people, be so short-sighted?” – they asked.
I started re-assessing my position. There is definitely potential in psychedelics, but is it possible it’s going to realize earlier than I thought?
Well, the recent appointment of Dr. Michael Ehlers as a strategic advisor to Field Trip Psychedelics certainly seems to point in that direction.
Meet Dr. Ehlers
Dr. Ehlers has over two decades of academic and business experience in neuroscience and drug development, serving in various senior roles within the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.
“There was a time, not too long ago, when having someone with Mike’s credentials, experience and reputation devote his time to the therapeutic applications of psychedelics like psilocybin and MDMA would be inconceivable.”
Among other spots, Dr. Ehlers held that of Executive Vice President and Head of Research & Development at Biogen (BIIB) – a biotech company woth more than $50 billion; and those of Group Senior Vice President of Biotherapeutics and Chief Scientific Officer of Neuroscience at the $200 billion behemoth Pfizer (PFE), where he led global research and development in neuroscience, pain and rare diseases.
“There was a time, not too long ago, when having someone with Mike’s credentials, experience and reputation devote his time to the therapeutic applications of psychedelics like psilocybin and MDMA would be inconceivable,” Levy told me.
However, he repeated, the evidence supporting the therapeutic potential of psychedelics has become substantial. “We see Mike’s joining us at Field Trip as an advisor, in part, as an endorsement of the work we are doing as a company, but more as an endorsement of the potential of psychedelics to fundamentally change how we approach treatment of mental health conditions,” he concluded.
“[P]sychedelics and psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy are promising new paradigms for the treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders.”
Last, but not least, I wanted to hear from Dr. Ehlers himself. What does his see in psychedelics?
“Based on the studies currently underway, psychedelics and psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy are promising new paradigms for the treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders,” he explained.
“Some studies are showing that psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy using psilocybin and MDMA to treat depression and PTSD are helping patients manage symptoms of these conditions. In some instances, these treatments are leading to remission of the condition itself. I am excited to be working with the team at Field Trip, who have a track record of innovation, to advance the potential and understanding of psychedelics.”
Tell me what you think. Are these signs of psychedelics being the next big thing? Or am I tripping?