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Why Psychedelics are Attracting R&D as Potential Treatments

Psychedelic R&D

Read the original article here. Recently, psychedelic drugs have become an increasingly popular area of research and drug development. Psychedelics, also known as hallucinogens, which include a range of compounds – some extracted from plants or fungi and others made synthetically, that are able to induce hallucinations if administered in sufficient quantities. These drugs are being evaluated in a range of serious neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders, including major depressive disorder (MDD), bipolar and anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Much of this research started with ketamine, following some really promising clinical trials conducted roughly five years ago. Since then, the field has expanded beyond ketamine into other compounds, such as those developing and testing based on tryptamines. Tryptamines are natural compounds or designer drugs that originate from the decarboxylation of tryptophan and produce hallucinations through agonism of the (5-HT) 2α serotonin receptors. It is thought that their anti-depressive and anti-anxiety effects are mediated through the same pathway.

What does this mean?

Because tryptamines target specific receptors, they should deliver the same therapeutic benefit – restructuring the serotonergic synaptic processes within the brain – without the debilitating withdrawal effects seen with SSRIs. Dr. Mathew McMurray of Miami University says, “Since they target a specific receptor, instead of globally increasing serotonin throughout the brain, they are a potentially more targeted treatment for these disorders, reducing side effects such as serotonin syndrome. Another benefit is that they are naturally derived, not synthetic.”

In fact, Dr McMurray said that recent pre-clinical data from their lab suggests that a single dose of the tryptamine compounds they are developing may be effective in many people, where a typical SSRI like Prozac takes 15 to 20 days of treatment to reach early therapeutic efficacy. “Obviously, that is a much better clinical scenario because you may not have to keep treating people over and over; instead you could treat them once and send them on their way,” he said.

Because governments around the world have effectively been shutting down research or making it very difficult to perform for the last 70 years, we do not know as much about these classes of drugs as we would have otherwise. Essentially, we are at the early stages, which is exciting because there have been  many new discoveries since starting to research these compounds.