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  • Psychedelic drugs are commonly reported

  • to trigger life-altering, mind-expanding inward journeys.

  • But since being scheduled dangerous and illegal,

  • any therapeutic benefits have gone largely unrecognized.

  • Mental health treatment hasn't changed in generations,

  • limited primarily to psychotherapy

  • and a broad drug class called SSRIs,

  • or selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors.

  • There's been no new drug in psychiatry

  • essentially since SSRIs back in the 1980s.

  • These drugs have varying results,

  • often with side effects,

  • and can be seriously habit-forming.

  • Once you get on one SSRI,

  • they've got you for life, pretty much.

  • But this model could soon be disrupted

  • by the acceptance of psychedelics by the medical,

  • psychiatric, and pharmacological communities.

  • This is now coming at the forefront

  • after spending 60 years in hiding.

  • And these tools actually have remarkable healing potential

  • and have had for thousands of years.

  • LSD, psilocybin, DMT, MDMA,

  • and other consciousness-altering compounds

  • once labeled dangerous and illegal drugs,

  • are coming into the political spotlight.

  • A recent ballot measure in Oregon

  • authorized the legal use of psilocybin

  • by licensed providers.

  • Clinical trials are pressing forward

  • in what could forever change the way

  • we understand and treat both the mind and the body.

  • Investors are flocking to stake their claim

  • in this new frontier of magic molecules.

  • What is really driving us here is the fact

  • that the efficacy rates here cannot be ignored.

  • They're profound, and money will follow efficacy.

  • But these investors aren't just hedging their bets.

  • They're true believers

  • intent on flooding psychedelic startups

  • with the capital they need

  • to invoke a revolution of the mind.

  • The word psychedelic is derived

  • from the ancient Greek word psyche, meaning soul,

  • and deloun, meaning to reveal.

  • It translates to mind-manifesting,

  • and the first real documented use of psychedelics

  • can actually be traced back to that same era.

  • From 1600 BC to 396 AD,

  • in the Greek culture, the foundations of Western culture,

  • they had the longest-running mystery ceremonies ever.

  • And they were involved with a psychedelic drug,

  • a potion called kykeon,

  • which we now through modern scholarship have identified

  • as being similar to LSD.

  • Rick Doblin is the founder of

  • the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies,

  • or MAPS.

  • Our top priority project is MDMA-assisted psychotherapy

  • for post-traumatic stress disorder,

  • and we're in phase III studies right now.

  • So, Rick, how long have you been involved in this?

  • I started MAPS in '86.

  • In the upcoming scene,

  • we will watch a young man

  • who is having a difficult experience

  • while under the influence of a psychedelic drug.

  • I really got involved

  • in trying to devote my life to psychedelics

  • and becoming a psychedelic therapist in 1972.

  • So, I imagine things have changed quite a bit since then?

  • Oh, my God, everything has changed.

  • America's public enemy number one is drug abuse.

  • When I began, it was the depth of the backlash.

  • In 1970, the Controlled Substances Act

  • was passed in the United States.

  • Psychedelics were criminalized.

  • The research was squashed.

  • Extensive experimentation

  • has failed to establish a medical use for LSD.

  • After Nixon,

  • mainstream acceptance of psychedelics was impossible,

  • and these compounds went underground

  • where it stayed for over a half century,

  • associated with counterculture and degeneracy.

  • Taking LSD is much the same

  • as playing Russian roulette.

  • What are you doing out here?

  • I'm floating, I'm floating up to the stars, Joe!

  • You can't float out here, we're three stories up!

  • No, I'm one with the universe!

  • I'm God and Jesus, Joe!

  • But guys like Rick Doblin

  • continued their research on the fringes.

  • And so, what's changed now

  • is the public attitudes have changed.

  • The regulatory agencies are open to research.

  • We just completed a $30 million capstone campaign

  • for our MDMA PTSD phase III studies

  • and for commercialization.

  • We're in a major psychedelic Renaissance right now.

  • And now we have these new tools for neuroscience

  • to really understand what these drugs do in the brain.

  • But that is not an easy question to answer.

  • There are a lot of drugs out there

  • that we don't know how they work.

  • You only have to show that a drug is safe

  • and that it's effective.

  • You don't have to know how a drug works to get it approved.

  • I mean, asking how psychedelics work

  • seems almost as challenging as asking,

  • what is the meaning of life?

  • I think if we have the answer to one,

  • we'll have the answer to the other.

  • Dr. Charles Nichols is professor of pharmacology

  • at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center.

  • I primarily study serotonin neuropharmacology

  • with a focus on psychedelic drugs.

  • So, tell me a little bit about what we know

  • is happening to the brain on, say, LSD or psilocybin.

  • What the psychedelics do is they target

  • a selective subset of serotonin receptors.

  • The one that produces the psychedelic effects

  • is called the serotonin 2A receptor.

  • A lot of positive effects are associated

  • with activation of that receptor.

  • Okay, so how about a less scientific explanation?

  • Unscientifically, what psychedelics do in the brain,

  • you're having several brain areas

  • that are talking to one another

  • that don't normally talk to one another,

  • and you've established new connections, new pathways.

  • There's one theory that posits that when

  • that trip starts to wear off,

  • the network will reset more into

  • a normal connectivity state

  • than, say, if somebody was depressed.

  • So, what kind of tests in the lab do you perform

  • to devise these theories?

  • We've developed two rat-based models

  • where we can essentially create a depressed rat,

  • give it a single dose of psilocybin,

  • and the rats that were given psilocybin

  • are now acting like normal rats.

  • They're not depressed.

  • I'm curious, how do you know a rat is depressed?

  • Oh, it just kind of hangs out in its corner.

  • Doesn't like to do much.

  • But these laboratory observations

  • don't speculate on what happens during the actual trip.

  • And this is where the therapy really comes in.

  • It's not a question of whether the science permits it,

  • but it's how we use these tools.

  • These are powerful tools,

  • but we still haven't quite figured out,

  • or at least we're still working on the best way to use them.

  • Shlomi Raz is CEO and founder of Eleusis.

  • He, along with other up and coming startups,

  • are designing the methodology to safely and effectively

  • practice psychedelic medicine.

  • Much of their inspiration comes

  • from ancient shamanic practices,

  • such as ayahuasca ceremonies in South America,

  • which have become increasingly popular among people

  • seeking alternative forms of healing

  • after traditional treatments have failed them.

  • So, Shlomi, what's the most important thing

  • we can learn from these shamanistic practices

  • as you design modern therapeutic applications?

  • That this clinical rollout be done in a way

  • that treats the therapeutic potential

  • and power of these drugs with respect.

  • And I think that would be the biggest mistake is that if,

  • in a rush to commercialization,

  • that there is a loss of respect associated with development.

  • Maybe you can walk me through your vision

  • of a psychedelic therapy session.