Psychedelics are having a moment and women could benefit

Psychedelics are having a moment and women could benefit

“We started our company knowing that women over 40 are prescribed antidepressants at three to four times the rate of men, resulting in one in five women taking an antidepressant to get through the day,” says Juan Pablo Cappello, co-founder and CEO CEO of FDA-approved ketamine therapy platform Nue Life, which raised $23 million in April.

Through platforms like Nue Life, or at one of the hundreds of ketamine therapy clinics across the US, patients can take a controlled amount of the psychoactive substance under the careful guidance of a trained clinician to induce an altered state of consciousness (trip). Having received a lot of airtime in recent years for its purported ability to treat PTSD, anxiety and substance abuse, ketamine is now being studied as an effective way to relieve symptoms of postpartum depression.

A a recent study in the Journal of Affective Disorders suggests that in patients at high risk of postpartum depression, a single dose of ketamine administered before anesthesia during cesarean sections may be effective in prevention. Another ketamine therapy startup, Field Trip, will also begin in-person Phase I clinical trials for FT-104, a psychedelic molecule that is similar to psilocybin but has a much shorter travel time. (Nikhita Singhal’s father, Sanjay Singhal, the entrepreneur who started, is an advisor to Field Trip.) “FT-104 has all the features that make psilocybin so interesting and attractive from a therapeutic perspective—safety and efficacy—but with a very short duration action,” Field Trip co-founder and executive chairman Ronan Levy told me. According to Levy, Field Trip’s existing preclinical studies signal that FT-104 will leave the body after 12 hours, meaning breastfeeding could hypothetically resume within 24 hours—something that will ultimately need to be confirmed in human trials and subject to scientific review. .

Kelsey Ramsden, former CEO of Vancouver-based psychedelic company Mindcure (which researched MDMA-assisted psychotherapy to help women with a lack of sex drive until shutting down earlier this year due to lack of funding), also says the market for postpartum depression attractive for psychedelic development because there is currently only one cure for the condition (Zulresso). Ramsden is a believer in part because psychedelics worked to ease her symptoms after she had her first child. “The change in my experience led to recurring depressive cycles, and the problem wasn’t necessarily a hormonal problem,” she says. “It was just a change in my experience as a result of becoming a mother in a society that expected me to be a certain way.” She says she tried SSRIs and traditional therapy at first, but finally got on a stable footing after trying psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy.

Ramsden believes that the entire psychedelic industry is still in its earliest days. But she can imagine a culture where it’s normal for women to openly take psychedelic drugs. When something is related to health works for women, she believes, good news spreads like wildfire.

Allison Feduccia, who has a PhD in neuropharmacology, believes the best evidence we have about how psychedelics affect women is still largely anecdotal. For example, there are accounts that suggest this peyote increases milk productionan idea he supports preliminary research from the 1970s. For years, people have been reporting on ways psychedelics changed their menstrual cycle, associating them with heavier periods, a period that comes early, or – alternatively – a more regular cycle. Research has shown that estrogen intensifies the brain’s dopamine reward, so it is possible that a woman’s reaction to a certain drug is more pleasant depending on the phase of her menstrual cycle.

Feduccia argues that psychedelics may be particularly useful for the “rites of passage” that most women go through. “Psychedelics might bring a better perspective when you get your first period, have your first child, and then go through menopause,” she says. “I just hope women can benefit [from psychedelics] without having to drop $20,000 for guided access.”

That guided approach is not only expensive, but fraught with ethical concerns. Multiple high-profile cases of abuse in psychedelic therapy have made headlines in recent years. Richard Yensen, an unlicensed therapist who was a sub-investigator for MAPS, was accused of sexually assaulting a PTSD patient during a MAPS clinical trial of MDMA. Allegations of sexual abuse have also been made against Aharon Grossbard and his wife Françoise Bourzat, the leader of a prominent Bay Area group that has practiced psychedelic therapy for more than 30 years.

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