Psychedelics: future of mental health care

It takes courage to take a topic which has always been viewed as a taboo and still speak about it publicly when you know that the current is against you

The way that society has traditionally approached mental health over the years is also flawed. To avoid any form of misunderstanding: I have full and total belief in modern day medicine, in community-based care, in therapy – cognitive, behavioral, psychoanalysis and the like, in psychiatry and especially in the social sciences surrounding mental health – psychology, social work, care work and nursing. But little innovation in the mental health sector has flourished over the past years, and this is worrying.

In the past years in particular we have seen the recurrence of mental health as a cause for concern for the general public. Figures relating to self and intervention reporting have increased exponentially and it is estimated that around 1 in 4 of us will experience mental health issues at some point in our lives. This figure, exacerbated by a global pandemic which increased our susceptibility to mental health challenges, is a global challenge and can only be tackled with global solutions. Research and development is most definitely one of these solutions, and yet little has been done in the field. Until now.

Traditionally, we have always viewed mental health challenges as something that people must live with. Unlike with other diseases, we have not looked for cures. At the risk of sounding very controversial, when it comes to mental health there are pills to pick you up, pills to bring you down, pills to make you sleep, pills to make you eat, pills to make you go quiet and others to make you speak up. But there never seems to be a pill which helps you understand why all of this is happening our minds. Until now.

This is where the use of psychedelic healthcare comes in.

Multiple trials, taking place in various parts of the world, are currently using MDMA, Psilocybin, N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and Ketamine to treat PTSD, major depression disorder, alcohol abuse and anxiety disorders. Two of the most promising of these trials, one which seeks to treat PTSD with MDMA; and a second which seeks to treat treatment-resistant depression with Psilocybin, are in a phase three trial stage. The results are so promising that even US President Joe Biden confirmed that it is anticipated that psychedelic therapies will be given FDA approval within the next two years.

The reason why I want to make the case for psychedelic healthcare, is because the results coming out of those clinical trials show that psychedelic healthcare may possibly be the pill that finally helps us understand. The therapies are helping patients unlock parts of their psyche which stores trauma and suffering, and allows them to address those issues without the traditional feelings attached to assessing such trauma – such as fear and discomfort. In a controlled and clinical setting utilising psychedelic, in order to access the root of the challenges, is revolutionary because what is being done here is something that traditional mental health science said was not possible: finally a cure is being created.

And thus, we mmust catch up. European Union funding opportunities under the Health Chapter of Horizon Europe, for example, must be expanded in order to allow more funding into such clinical trials. Currently Horizon, the EU’s leading funding programme for innovation, has already funded innovation in the field of depression treatment utilising ketamine – however, the number of projects under this remit must expand. But to do this, we need to push boundaries.

And yes, it takes guts to push boundaries.

It takes courage to take a topic which has always been viewed as a taboo and still speak about it publicly when you know that the current is against you. But with the science and evidence overwhelmingly showing us that psychedelics work in the treatment of various mental health illnesses and as part of end-of-life care – bringing up these topics is not just about courage, it is about being on the right side of history.