Opinion: Psychedelia and the Return of the Legal High

Psychedelic therapy, using LSD, Ketamine and MDMA may be curing depression, PTSD and alcoholism. As a result, it could be made available to the average consumer to seek higher levels of consciousness and a better understanding of their thoughts and feelings. Previously, the medical value of psychedelics has been disregarded and consumers were seen as abusers. Yet medical interest in this has now been renewed and results are being seen, attracting even more investment.

Now, I know this sounds far-fetched and outlandish, but it is being researched and clinically tested as we speak. The financial potential is huge, with millions invested already in a barely prospective business model. Take this, experts at the University of Exeter found that alcoholics treated with ‘ketamine-and-therapy combinations’ were ‘two-and-a-half times more likely to stay sober for six months following treatment compared to people who were offered just talking therapy’. Similarly, Imperial College London conducted a small trial investigating the effect of ingredients found in ‘magic mushrooms’ on patients suffering from treatment-resistant depression. Whilst outcomes weren’t hugely significant, which was probably down to sample size, results were effective.

‘Investors and venture capitalists are pouring money into psychedelic companies’ as several trial results have been considered to be ‘breakthrough’. Some of the publicly traded companies, including GH Research and Atai Life Sciences, have been valued at north of $800 million, which is a staggering addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars already invested by venture capitalists into non-public firms. Unsurprisingly, the market is quickly becoming crowded with several heavily financed companies battling for the breakthrough research to be associated with them. 

This industry will go further than remaining purely clinical in application and I’ll explain why:

Set the scene, you are privy to your own bank account and the number is unfathomable. The standard luxuries of your bourgeois life, like super-yachts and private islands, are no longer as exciting as they once were. Now, imagine that a neuropsychiatrist offers you a retreat at a non-disclosed location, to experience psychedelic therapy and temporarily reach a higher level of consciousness. The unique selling point they offer is a better understanding of your feelings and emotions, the opportunity to be more creative, and a talking point amongst the mega-rich that separates you from the rest. 

We all have much to learn about this currently embryonic treatment, which I find fascinating and exciting. The major hurdle for the investors and research companies is legislation and I look forward to seeing lobbyists emerging as this bio psychochemical industry gains more traction. The red tape will be outrageous, and the cost of insuring safety will be astronomical. Will this deter commitment from investors? Will we see parliaments across the globe becoming divided on this issue? Maybe the ever-lasting debate over the legalisation of cannabis will seem like a short and insignificant ‘chit-chat’ in comparison to the mammoth that is potentially coming. 

So, we could be tens of years away from booking an appointment online to have your mind-set perplexed at a local psychedelic therapy retreat. Taking a break from a stressful working life or a busy social agenda might look less like a walk in a park and more like a colourful, psychedelia art gallery personalised very specifically to your mind and experiences.

I know this seems dramatic, but think of the scary reality of the human race and its frightening progress since the dawn of time. Space travel, neurosurgery, and the lightbulb (like most things) would be unfathomable to the cave person.  I think it’s logical to assume that the human race will try to improve their biological capabilities from the inside out rather than the outside in. 

Maybe I’ll see you choosing your nectar at a tranquil hallucinogenic retreat; what will it be? MDMA, Ketamine, or Magic Mushrooms.

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