Magic mushrooms to treat depression? COMPASS Pathways pushes forward with U.S. patent for psilocybin therapy

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      Back in early 2018, the Straight published a cover story on the growing field of research into psychedelic plants and chemicals.

      This wasn't the paper's first foray into this field, of course.

      In its earliest days as a poineering alt-weekly, the Straight spilled pleny of ink on this topic.

      Most notably, artist Rand Holmes ran the legendary Harold Hedd comic strip in the paper in the early 1970s, featuring a beloved, long-haired, drug-loving hippie.

      More recently in 2007, there was a feature in the Straight examining whether a psychedelic plant called ibogaine had any therapeutic benefits for people addicted to opiates.

      But the 2018 story, by Travis Lupick, was different—it reflected how far psychedelic research had come in entering the mainstream.

      The B.C. Centre on Substance Use, housed at the University of British Columbia, was by that time one of the world's leading centres of this field of study.

      Psychedelics are not only being examined in the field of addiction medicine, but also for their efficacy in addressing posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.

      “Psychedelic plants and drugs have been used for thousands of years in traditional healing and spiritual ceremonies, and contemporary western science has not paid them much attention,” UBC researcher Kenneth Tupper told Lupick. “Now there’s new interest in these traditional practices, as well as interest in bringing a clinical, scientific approach to the substances contained in these plants.”

      Harold Hedd was underground-newspaper artist Rand Holmes's most famous character.
      Rand Holmes

      Countering depression with magic mushrooms

      That same year, the mental-health-care company COMPASS Pathways was granted "Breakthrough Therapy" designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its psilocybin therapy for treatment-resistant depression.

      This designation is granted "if preliminary clinical evidence shows that it may demonstrate substantial improvement over available therapy", according to the company, which is based in the United Kingdom.

      Earlier this year, COMPASS obtained a U.S. patent for a psilocybin-therapy protocol for treating patients with depression.

      Psilocybin is the ingredient that gets people high when they eat magic mushrooms.

      The company stated that the psychedelic agent was "well tolerated when administered to healthy adult volunteers with support from specially trained therapists in a randomized placebo-controlled trial".

      There's an interesting back story to COMPASS.

      It was cofounded in 2016 by the married couple George Goldsmith and Ekaterina Malievskaia when they had difficulty finding help for a family member with depression.

      They obtained financial backing from PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel and cryptocurrency kingpin Michael Novogratz, which has enabled the company to endure the long and expensive U.S regulatory process.

      For more about the potential of psychedelics in treating depression, check out the video below.

      Video: Last month, COMPASS Pathways posted this video on YouTube outlining the potential of psilocybin therapy.