By Jeff Nielson
Published at Psychedelic Stock Watch
What does it take to be commercially successful in any market?
In general terms, it requires robust consumer demand. And it requires a product with a competitive edge versus rival products on the market.
In the case of the psychedelic drug industry (and psychedelic drug stocks), it requires one additional ingredient: strong enough political pressure to overcome anti-drug biases and phobias that are still present among politicians.
This is especially true with respect to the United States federal government, the architect of the now-discredited War on Drugs. The “war” has been lost, but most politicians (especially from the Republican aisle) are showing little inclination to concede defeat.
We saw that with the cannabis industry. While political will has materialized at the state level to legalize cannabis, federally the U.S. remains in Obstructionist mode.
With millions of Americans consuming cannabis to treat hundreds of different medical conditions, officially cannabis remains a Schedule 1 prohibited substance – deemed to have “no known medicinal uses”.
Political and scientific nonsense. But until it is swept away by a government prepared to legislate cannabis fairly/rationally, the legal industry will never fully get off the ground in the U.S.
Pressures mount for psychedelic drug legalization
Obviously, these same U.S. politicians will harbor equal if not greater biases and phobias toward psychedelic drugs.
But politicians also have strong (political) survival instincts. And today politicians are facing strong pressures – from numerous directions – to normalize psychedelic drugs for medicinal use.
Psychedelic Stock Watch regularly focuses on the principal driver (pressure) for psychedelic drug legalization: the Mental Health Crisis.
That is a set of very powerful political/economic/social drivers that are pressuring politicians all around the world to fast-track the legalization of psychedelic drugs for medicinal use.
However, in the United States there is perhaps an even more powerful political driver of psychedelics legalization: the Department of Defense.
The U.S. military (somehow) manages to spend roughly as much each year as all of the rest of the world’s armed forces combined. What the DoD wants, the DoD gets.
And what the U.S. Department of Defense wants today is legalized psychedelic drugs – to treat the epidemic of mental health issues among U.S. veterans and active military personnel.
PTSD crisis is impacting the combat-readiness of the U.S. military
The crisis here is obvious.
In the last 14 years, nearly 18,000 Americans have died while on active military duty. That’s a depressing number.
Over that same timeframe, 73,000 U.S. veterans have committed suicide – greater than 4 times the number of active-duty deaths.
But these mental health deaths are only the tip of the iceberg.
A 10 – 20% incidence rate every year goes well beyond the threshold of an epidemic. It is also having a significant (and worsening) impact on the combat-readiness of the U.S. military – at a time when the U.S. government has been engaging in non-stop saber-rattling.
Yet despite this enormous/urgent healthcare need, the DoD has been doing an atrocious job of treating PTSD and the related mental health problems that often accompany it: depression, addiction and anxiety.
One public company with a strong commitment to PTSD-related psychedelic drug research is Mydecine Innovations Group (CAN:MYCO / US:MYCOF). Psychedelic Stock Watch reached out to Mydecine for both some insights on post-traumatic stress disorder and on the news of new research funding.
First the science. Dr. Rakesh Jetly, MYCO’s Chief Medical Officer added these thoughts.
The toxic effects of combat related trauma were acknowledged long before the 1980s when PTSD was first defined by the American Psychiatric Association. In our most recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq PTSD was named by RAND Corporation as one of the "signature wounds" of these conflicts. PTSD can have a chronic and debilitating course that can impact all aspects of veteran life including work, recreation and family. Evidence-based treatments do exist but sadly are not effective in a significant proportion for those suffering from PTSD. Nightmares, flashbacks, avoidance, isolation and hypervigilance can be crippling. PTSD contributes to other associated consequences such as addiction, suicide, and homelessness. It is a moral imperative to not only acknowledge the sacrifices veterans have made but the search for solutions for conditions such as PTSD.
It is particularly significant to target veterans in this research. There is evidence that suggests that veterans are less likely to respond to the evidence-based therapies that currently exist for PTSD. It is unclear exactly why this is the case however it proves true for psychotherapies and medications. Simply put, if psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy is shown to work in veterans, then it will likely work in other populations.
Two-thirds of U.S. military personnel receiving treatment for PTSD from the DoD consider the treatment they receive unsatisfactory. The 73,000 veteran suicides over the past 14 years add an exclamation point to that complaint.
Enter psychedelic drugs.
Psychedelic drugs: real medicine for PTSD (and depression/addiction/anxiety)
To date, clinical research is showing MDMA-based psychotherapy as the most effective psychedelic drug option for the treatment of PTSD.
The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is about to begin a Phase 3 clinical trial. Results to date have been extremely encouraging.
Here is the choice for the Department of Defense with respect to treating PTSD:
a) Continue existing treatment options that produce unsatisfactory results for the vast majority of sufferers and spend $103,000 more per patient
b) Switch to MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, which seems to benefit >90% of sufferers and spend $103,000 less per patient
The U.S. military isn’t noted for its deep thinking. But it doesn’t take an Einstein to identify the superior option here.
U.S. military needs psychedelic drugs TODAY
Even with FDA fast-tracking for this research, MAPS is estimating that it won’t have “a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved prescription treatment” before 2023. This is unfortunate since the DoD needs this MDMA-assisted therapy now.
In percentage terms, the Mental Health Crisis within the U.S. military is even more acute than that of the general population. Apart from the horrific human toll from this crisis/epidemic, this will impact the DoD in three very significant ways.
With the prospects for a major war higher than at any time in decades, the U.S. military is already experiencing a horrendous rate of mental health attrition in prosecuting even regional wars. The mental health impact of a larger conflict on U.S. military personnel is potentially catastrophic.
As the DoD reaches a similar assessment, it is now reaching for its own checkbook to fund psychedelic drug research.
Psychedelic Stock Watch previously noted this funding.
DoD pledges $27 million for psychedelic drug research
The DoD continues to absolutely prohibit any form of cannabis consumption, even non-psychoactive CBD products. Yet this same government department is now funding research into the use of psychedelic drugs for the treatment of veterans’ health, specifically potential applications for the treatment of PTSD.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has provided $26.9 million of funding for such research.
At DARPA, Dr. Tristan McClure-Begley, Focused Pharma’s program manager, said last fall that the agency’s interest in developing such drugs is due to the country’s large number of veterans with PTSD and other mental health conditions.
Now more funding for psychedelic drug research is coming from the U.S. military, this time via a donation from the Navy Seal Foundation.
It’s not another $27 million, but as the saying goes “it’s the thought that counts”. The same military that has absolutely zero tolerance for cannabis is writing checks for psychedelic drug research.
Josh Bartch, CEO of Mydecine, welcomed news of the additional funding commitment.
This news is a positive step towards the advancement of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy treatments because it represents a growing acceptance and support for a more progressive, non-traditional, and far more effective form of treatment. As we’ve seen in many natural sourced therapies that have a negative public connotation due to past political and recreational reasons, one of the largest hurdles is general acceptance and support. While we feel there is still much more research and improvements needed to this new treatment method, we see this development as a huge step in the right direction.
Ultimately, it might be the DoD’s influence within the U.S. government that does more to advance the psychedelic drug industry than any direct monetary contributions it could make.
The journey to psychedelic drug legalization (at the national level) won’t be completed overnight. The psychedelic drug industry now has an important ally in expediting the road to legalization in the United States: the Department of Defense.