Psychedelic Hype Cycle Revisited; Oregon's Rules; DEA Backs Off...Again
Greetings to readers not at Burning Man, all three of you!
Today, we’re looking at three recent developments that touch on the cultural narratives and the regulations governing this emerging field.
Psychedelic Hype Cycle Revisited
Oregon Health Authority published a draft of proposed rules for the forthcoming role out of Measure 109
The DEA, for the second time in recent weeks, backed off a proposal to schedule psychedelic compounds
But first, in less than two weeks, the Horizons Northwest Perspective on Psychedelics will kick off in Portland, Oregon, with four days of programming that couldn’t be happening at a more critical time for the state and this emerging field.
Trip Report readers can use TRIPREPORT-NW-15 at check out for a 15% discount on tickets.
Several panels look very interesting:
On Thursday, Elizabeth Neilson of Fluence, Rachel Aiden of Synthesis, and Rebecca Martinez of the Alma Institute will convene on the topic of Starting Services Centers, Manufacturers, and Training Programs
On Friday, Adie Rae (Wilson Poe) of Legacy Health and Robin Carhart-Harris of UCSF will discuss How Will Oregon Advance Scientific Research? (Digitally enabled Naturalistic research has been a recurrent theme of this newsletter, Oregon’s program could be a huge step in this direction)
Once again, use discount code TRIPREPORT-NW-15 at check out for 15% off tickets.
Psychedelic Hype Cycle Revisited
In March, I used the Gartner Hype Cycle as a framework to evaluate where we were in the larger context of the developing field.
I posited that the field was in the “Trough of Disillusionment” and that the excitement and enthusiasm of a “new paradigm” of mental health treatments had run its course.
I based this on revelations such as the parity between Lexapro and Psilocybin, the difficulty of developing a state-level framework in Oregon, the adverse events from Compass’ phase II trial, and the accounts of sexual abuse not only in underground settings but clinical trials.
This was an assessment of the people very close to the developing sector—operators, investors, and advocates—and my sense that the field had come to recognize the inherent caution required, the challenges in developing the requisite infrastructure, and the relatively small amount of data.
Professor David Yaden of Johns Hopkins also deployed the same framework in a series of presentations to posit that the psychedelic hype cycle had yet to reach the climax of the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” as the majority of the press coverage has been overly optimistic.
This week, he and his colleagues published his thesis as an opinion piece in JAMA Psychiatry titled Preparing for the Bursting of the Psychedelic Hype Bubble.
The basic gist is that the ‘psychedelic renaissance’ runs the risk of repeating history when the current hype careens from the peak of inflated expectations to the trough of disillusionment as marked by “Formely overly positive press reports [becoming] overly negative.”
The critical driver of overly favorable media coverage is industry incentives and poor science communication by researchers. The piece concludes with the following:
“As scientists and clinicians, we have an ethical mandate to dispute claims not supported by available evidence. We encourage our colleagues to help deflate the psychedelic hype bubble in a measured way so that we can get on with the hard work of more precisely determining the risks and benefits of psychedelics.”
My sense, being outside the traditional scientific communication pipeline, is that three things are simultaneously true:
Researchers are overzealous when communicating the results
The media is incapable of nuance, and
Because psychedelics elude the gold standard of research—the randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trials—trial results are especially complicated to communicate.
On the one hand, the concept that psychedelics—a class of compounds that potentiate mystical experiences, have been used throughout history, have been outlawed for political purposes, and still carry a social stigma—could be useful as therapeutic tools is too captivating for both scientists and the media.
Despite this novelty, it is hard not to agree that psychedelic researchers have an obligation to communicate with extreme caution.
On the other hand, the path from ‘data to headline’ is like a game of telephone, and media that glosses over the details and paints either overly optimistic or pessimistic pictures will likely be the norm.
First, data is collected, then it is analyzed, then it is written up in a paper, then the university publishes a press release, then journalists interview the researchers, then their quotes are published in an article, then editors choose headlines that drive attention, and then the article gets shared on social media.
Each step is an opportunity for noise to creep in.
Finally, because of the intense subjective effects, it is impossible to adequately blind psychedelic trials. Thus, the task of “more precisely determining the risks and benefits of psychedelics” will always lag behind cultural adoption.
Draft Rules for Oregon
Oregon Health Authority released a draft of proposed rules for an upcoming committee meeting.
Mason Marks had a great Twitter thread on the details:
Details from Marks’ comments include:
The length of administration will vary based on dose, thereby making microdosing potentially feasible as clients can leave facilities one hour after consuming up to 5mg.
The maximum dosage in a single administration is 50mg
The maximum dosage per packaged product is 25mg
License fees are proposed at $10,000 for manufacturers, service centers, and laboratories and $2,000 for facilitators
Finally, participants are required to agree to a “transportation plan” following their session. In the event participants do not follow their transportation plan, facilitators must contact the police. As Marks highlights, this could lead to undesirable interactions.
DEA Backs Down Again
In April, the DEA announced its intention to add two psychedelic compounds—DOI and DOC—to the list of Schedule I substances.
This week, the agency announced that it was reversing course.
From the Federal Register:
“The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is withdrawing a proposed rule that was published in the Federal Register on April 11, 2022, which proposed to place two phenethylamine hallucinogens in schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. DEA is withdrawing the proposed rule, terminating all proceedings related thereto, and will be publishing a new proposed rule using an amended procedure.”
This is the second time in several weeks the agency has reversed course on plans to add important research compounds to the list of Schedule I substances.
Attorneys Matt Zorn and John Hunter, who worked on the first case against the DEA, sat down with Hamilton Morris on his podcast. It is worth a listen if you have the time.
Thanks for reading The Trip Report by Beckley Waves! Subscribe for free to receive new posts.
That’s it for this week; thanks for reading!