The times, as a wise man once said, sure are a-changin’.
On April 20, the California-based biotech firm, CB Therapeutics, announced that it was teaming up with the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio to produce and administer psychedelics that the US government, for decades, have considered dangerous and lacking medical value. The agreement would have CB Therapeutics manufacturing pharmaceutical grade psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”), MDMA (“molly” or “ecstasy”), and DMT. The Cleveland Clinic would handle dispensing proper doses of the drugs to patients undergoing FDA-approved studies for psychedelic-assisted therapies.
“Psychedelic compounds have the potential to bring significant improvement to the lives of many individuals suffering from mental illness,” Dr. Brian Barnett, MD, a psychiatric addiction specialist at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Behavioral Health, said in a press release. “We look forward to the studies of these compounds and the determination of their safety and efficacy in mental healthcare and treatment as quickly as possible.”
The Cleveland Clinic isn’t just any old hospital. US Weekly News and World Report, one of America’s gold standards for institutional rankings, listed it as the second best hospital in the country. The non-profit hospital operates internationally, as well, with campuses in Canada, Abu Dhabi, and the UK. The hospital system’s headquarters is based in Ohio.
CB Therapeutics isn’t your typical pot company, either. Instead of growing weed, the biotech firm produces cannabinoids like CBD using genetically modified microorganisms. With the new partnership, the company will soon also make MDMA, DMT, and psilocybin through its platforms.
The new partnership signals a revolutionary sea change in American medicine. In the past, doctors and medical organizations viewed psychedelics as dangerous substances that destroyed the mind and wrecked lives. But in recent years, the majority of Americans who’ve died from drug overdoses were killed by opioid painkillers and alcohol — two types of drugs that are legally and readily accessible across the US. And in the case of opioids, these are drugs that are prescribed and administered by doctors themselves.
However, drug addiction is not the disease that ravages most Americans. Anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and severe depression are doing far more damage than psychedelics have ever done. And these behavioral maladies usually resist traditional treatments with antidepressants, mood stabilizers, tranquilizers, and psychotherapies. So, now, doctors and even the FDA are looking at other substances, including ones deemed “club drugs,” for helping patients instead.
Although psychedelics are still undergoing clinical trials, the results so far have been incredibly promising. MDMA can effectively cure PTSD in as little as two guided sessions — no currently FDA-approved drug for controlling PTSD has come close to MDMA’s therapeutic potential. Psilocybin and DMT can treat depression and possibly break addictions to other drugs like opioids and booze. And, when these psychoactive substances are doled out with specific dosages under the guidance of medical professionals, they’re both safe and non-habit forming.
“It has been our goal, since the inception of the company, to achieve these production milestones and bring these promising compounds to the healthcare community,” said Sher Ali Butt, the CEO of CB Therapeutics. “We look forward to being a part of these pivotal studies to seek solutions to some of mankind’s most challenging social and mental health care problems.”
The FDA has already granted psilocybin and MDMA “breakthrough” status, which fast-tracks the compounds for a shorter-than-average approval process. Psilocybin is currently in Phase II clinical trials, whereas MDMA recently entered Phase III. Phase III is the final stage of the FDA drug approval process; once a drug clears that step, it can be mass produced and legally prescribed by doctors for on-label uses. (There’s also a Phase IV, which re-assesses the drug’s usefulness and safety after it’s been widely available for some time.)
We will likely see psychedelics become part of every hospital’s treatment toolbox within our lifetimes. And once that happens, it will be high-time to start seriously discussing, as a nation, how and when we’re going to release our drug war prisoners who were incarcerated for nonviolent, victimless crimes.