Roland has been doing research with mood altering drugs for over 40 years
About 20 years ago, he took up a mediation practice which really got him interested in altered states of consciousness and spiritual experiences
This meditation practice reacquainted him with older psychedelic research (LSD, psilocybin, DMT etc.)
An Important Study
His group published a study ~10 years ago involving healthy volunteers receiving psilocybin
Note – psilocybin is the active ingredient in magic mushrooms
They found that when people are carefully selected, prepared, and then administered the drug, the resulting effects are profound and deeply meaningful to the individuals
Months later, participants say it was among the most personally meaningful and spiritually significant experiences of their lives
How does psilocybin compare to other drugs?
Effects from psilocybin are much more salient and long lasting
People feel they have learned something personally important and it has information value moving forward
How are his studies run?
~8 hours of prep the day before to make participants feel comfortable
On the session day, they take a capsule of synthsized psilocybin
Participants start by laying down on a coach with eye shades while listening to music
They are then advised to direct their attention inward on their inner experiences
There are 2 guides to provide reassurance if needed, on the off chance anxiety or fear arises
How are participants chosen for studies?
Extensive medical history screening
People are screened out even if they have a second degree relative with history of psychotic disorder
How are placebos given in the studies?
Participants are told they will be given 1 of 11 different psychoactive compounds
Magnitude of the experiences tends to be correlated with expectations, but expectancy does not account for full effect
Control substances may be something like ritalin or very low does psilocybin
What kind of experiences do people have on psychedelics?
Autobiographical experiences where they remember childhood issues
Reflection on current relationships
Aesthetic experiences where people get involved with imagery/color
Core Features of a Psychedelic Experience
Interconnectedness of all people and things, a sense of universal unity
The experience has an authenticity to it, a high truth value. People claim it’s more real/true than everyday life.
Sense of positive mood
Trancendance of time/space, present state awareness.
People tend to experience the mystery of conciousness
It’s not unusual for people to value the experience for months to come
Psilocybin, Cancer, and End of Life Depression
Roland and his colleagues recently published a study on the effects of psilocybin on depressive symptoms and anxiety for patients with late stage cancer
Treatment options are limited for depressed/anxious cancer patients
The therapeutic effects of psilocybin tend to be profound – large and sustained decreases in anxiety/depression
The reduced levels of anxiety/depression persisted for 6 months
How did the psilocybin effect the cancer/immune function?
Remains to be determined
If patients are feeling better, maybe it’s actually doing something to the immune system?
A Stand Still
In the late 1960’s, clinical work with psychedelics came to a stand still due to government regulation
Psychedelics became a Schedule I compound
Media led people to believe the risks of these compounds were far greater than the benefits
Psilocybin to Treat Depression in Otherwise Healthy Individuals
Psilocybin is a seretonergic agonist – actives 5-HT2a receptors (it binds to this receptor)
As this is just a single dose, this is a very different approach than typical depression treatments which involve taking antidepressants every day
Perhaps there is a link between the psilocybin and increased neurogenesis (the growth of new neurons) – when you grow new neurons, you have to break a connection between old neurons to form a new connection. There might possibly be a selective break of the traumatic neuron connections.
Currently. Roland is discussing a Phase III clinical trial with the FDA for treatment of depression with psilocybin
If efficacy is demonstrated, there is potential for approvability