Psychedelic medicine start-up Ei.Ventures has partnered with California-based Tioga Research to develop a transdermal patch for the sustained delivery of psilocin, the active ingredient in psilocybin mushrooms, otherwise known as “magic mushrooms,” for medicinal purposes.
BACKGROUND: Psilocybin and the Transdermal “Magic Mushroom” Patch
Psilocybin is a psychedelic compound naturally produced by more than 200 species of fungi. The drug produces mind-altering effects when consumed, such as hallucinations and feelings of euphoria. While current legislation concerning the medicinal and recreational use of psilocybin varies between countries, significant pressure from academia, as well as the medical community, is seeing this natural drug as a possible therapeutic medicine.
With more studies looking at these compounds as possible treatments for mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, and addiction, psilocybin, and other psychedelic drugs, have experienced a scientific renaissance recently.
“The highly promising early-stage clinical trials data suggests that psilocybin may effectively treat several serious mental health problems, including major depressive disorder, alcohol addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety, PTSD, and more,” Ei-Ventures CEO David Nikzad told The Debrief. He explained that the side effects of psilocybin are milder, and while more testing needs to be done, initial results suggest that serious side effects are rare.
Nikzad is not alone in this claim.
“We should be clear that psilocybin is not without risks of harm, which are greater in recreational than medical settings, but relatively speaking, looking at other drugs both legal and illegal, it comes off as being the least harmful in different surveys and across different countries,” said Dr. Matthew Johnson, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in 2018.
ANALYSIS: How does this work?
While the Federal Drug Administration is still testing the compound on a trial basis, there is optimism that it will be approved. If so, then one of the big questions involves how to best deliver the compound to a patient, and Nikzad is pushing for a patch.
“Transdermal patches deliver drugs topically, where they are absorbed by the skin and into the bloodstream. Thus, they provide consistent delivery of small amounts of a drug into the bloodstream over a long period of time,” he stated. “Transdermal delivery offers a potentially superior dosing curve and improved tolerability.”
Compared to simply ingesting psilocybin, a patch allows for direct absorption into the bloodstream, and with the ability to cater the dose delivery.
“A transdermal patch also allows for consistent delivery over time instead of delivering a full dose all at once, such as occurs with a pill where you end up hoping the safety and effectiveness are optimal for the patients,” Nikzad explained.
In theory, a patch is much safer and more effective. When ingesting a drug, the dosage reaches the peak of its effectiveness and then begins to decline as the body breaks it down. By comparison, a patch is able to regulate the administration of dosages over a longer period, resulting in no peaks and maintaining the desired threshold of effectiveness until the content of the patch runs out.
Moreover, all a user must do to cease delivery with a patch is remove it, whereas ingested products require the user to wait out the effects.
Efficacy and safety aside, psilocybin and other similar drugs still face many hurdles. Chiefly, they remain illegal in most places, and political concerns often override what clinicians and patients think.
“While psychedelics are currently prohibited substances in most countries, the growing popularity of their therapeutic potential is leading many people to use psychedelics on their own rather than waiting for legal medical access,” states a recent study published in the Harm Reduction Journal. “Therapists therefore have an ethical duty to meet this need by providing support for clients using psychedelics.”
Nikzad argues that governments and medical organizations are behind the curve in this case.
“Harm reduction approaches refer to a focus on reducing the negative consequences of drug use rather than focusing on eliminating the use of the drug,” he says citing the study. “Education about psychedelics, including their risks and benefits, is essential for ensuring that patients/clients are informed.”
Outlook: Psilocybin Transdermal Patches May Be Just Around the Corner
People have been consuming “magic mushrooms” for thousands of years, and while current medical practice is to use opioids in mental health treatment, both the public as well as scientific researchers are finding that using ‘shrooms’ may actually be safer.
It looks as though still has a long way to go in order to be approved, however, if it is, the medical community will be looking to establish a best practice for the drug’s delivery.
“In the future, we intend to create a whole suite of both first and second-generation psychedelic products to create the most helpful toolkit possible for both clinicians, to help patients overcome their mental health challenges, and researchers, to unlock the next breakthrough that may benefit humanity by improving the overall quality of life and vitality while reducing suffering and improving overall wellbeing,” Nikzad concluded.
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