#70 - How Psychedelic Treatments Work with Ronan Levy, Founder of Field Trip Health

By Stephen Hays

Ronan Levy is co-founder and the Executive Chairman of Field Trip Health, a psychedelic assisted treatment business.  Ronan joins us to talk about how psychedelic treatments work, what all the hype is about, where we are by way of regulation in the industry and the future use cases of psychedelic treatments. Prior to Field Trip, he was an early pioneer in the medical cannabis industry which gave him a unique perspective on launching the world’s first integrated company in legal psychedelics.   Field Trip currently has operations in North America, the Caribbean and Europe where their goal is to become to leader in medical and therapeutic applications of psychedelics. Links mentioned in the show: Ronan Levy on LinkedIn, https://www.fieldtriphealth.com/ MAPS Research Results (MDMA used for PTSD treatment) David Nutt: Psychedelic Psychiatry’s Brave New World (Cell 2020) NYU End of Life Psychedelic Study (long term positive impact of psychedelics) HERE ARE SOME OF THE THINGS WE TALKED ABOUT: Ronan talked about how he found his way into the Psychedelic space by way of the legal cannabis industry from 2013 through 2018. Ronan told the founding story of Field Trip Health and talked about what exactly they do, and their mission which is to “heal the sick, and better the well, through psychedelic medicine and therapies.” We talked about how psychedelic treatments have been used to cure mental health problems that so far, through other treatments, have only been mitigated, not cured. Ronan talked about what Field Trip Health does as a company.  In addition to covering the obvious stuff around running psychedelic assisted psychotherapy clinics, he explains other components of their business including content creation, and their efforts around drug development. How do psychedelics work? Ronan took time to explain how psychedelic treatments work by breaking them down into three primary effects: Psychedelics provide a rather immediate natural anti-depressant effect. Most people report incredibly significant improvement in mood after using psychedelics. When on a trip, people report re-living or experiencing emotions or events with some degree of objectivity or detachment allowing that person to go back into feelings and emotions from their past and start to process those feelings and embrace emotional healing from those instances. Following a trip, people experience a period of neural plasticity where the circuitry of your brain is more adept and responsive to change and the influence of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Between the dynamics of the mood improvement, the emotional processing, and the CBT that can accelerate the emotional processing that lead to fundamental changes in our neurology.  This is why psychedelics can be so effective. Some of the clinical trials, such as the trial at MAPS using MDMA to treat PTSD are showing total resolution of all symptoms of PTSD in 70% of people with chronic, severe PTSD.   This is fundamentally different than any other treatment for mental health differences on the market today. We talked about the neuroscience around how psychedelics impact the brain. We discussed how psychedelic treatments impact the “Default Mode Network” (or the “operating system) of the brain).  Ronan explains that during a trip, the Default Mode Network is quieted.  This is the part of the brain where our “ego” lives. Our ego is what holds our self-identity and when you can reduce or remove that barrier then you are able to dig into the machinery of how you define yourself and fundamentally address who you are, and address past trauma and pain in a way that leads to real changes. We talked about the regulatory landscape as well. Ronan explained that he is 100% convinced that psilocybin and MDMA will be removed from schedule 1.  The only question is around timing and it could be anywhere from 6 months to 5 years from now depending on who you ask and how things unfold politically. We talked about how far along MAPS is with their phase 3 study using MDMA for treatment of PTSD and how MAPS has spoken publicly about expecting approval by 2022 or 2023 for their use of MDMA for treating PTSD.  We also talked about how synthetic psilocybin developers such as Compass Pathways have indicated progress toward approvals that would lead to widespread use by 2025. We talked at length about where people can read more to get smart on the psychedelic space. Many of those resources are linked above in the “links” section. I asked Ronan why now the time for the psychedelic renaissance. He explains that as a society we are going through a mental health and wellbeing revolution.  Additionally, research has picked up in earnest at Johns Hopkins, NYU, Imperial College and others on the medical use of psychedelics. At the same time, MAPS has made such enormous progress in showing the effect of MDMA on treating things like PTSD that it is hard to ignore the healing potential.  Also, the broader changing attitudes toward cannabis are helping people revisit stigmatized medicines more broadly.  And finally, the Opioid crisis has done a lot to destroy trust in big pharma / industrial medical complex which is fueling a desire to find more alternative treatments. We talked about the differences between the early cannabis industry and the early psychedelic industry as well. The biggest differences that that the renaissance around psychedelics is driven by academic and clinical research.  The evidence around psychedelics is much more persuasive than it ever had been for cannabis.  There are endless volumes of research pointing to the clinical effectiveness of psychedelics.  Some of this is linked above in the “links” section of these show notes. We also talked about how the industry around psychedelic medicine has emerged versus how the cannabis industry emerged.  Cannabis is more of a product focused market where consumer purchase cannabis and use it alone, at home privately.    In the psychedelic space, its different.  Psychedelic drug delivery is more of a service-based approach.  It is not just the drug that matters. It’s the set and setting and the protocols around the trip that matter.  It’s not something you can just do at home as easily as you can with cannabis.   Where do we go from here? What is the future of psychedelics?  What can it be used to treat?Ronan explained that mental health use-cases are really the low hanging fruit of psychedelic use-cases.  He believes that we can use the anti-inflammatory nature of the drugs to treat things such as wounds, other injuries, and really any condition that includes inflammation . Ronan talked about work currently being done around treating Alzheimer’s patients and how there is also a growing body of evidence around the expansive properties of psychedelic medicines to enhance creativity, empathy, and general wellbeing. Ronan explains that psychedelic treatments will revolutionize psychiatry to the point where in 20-30 years we will look back on psychiatric practices before psychedelics as barbaric.   Connect with the Stigma Podcast in the following ways: Patreon, Website, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Email Connect with host Stephen Hays here: Stephen Hays Personal Website, Twitter, LinkedIn, What If Ventures (Mental Health Venture Fund)  

Listen to #70 - How Psychedelic Treatments Work with Ronan Levy, Founder of Field Trip Health now.

Listen to #70 - How Psychedelic Treatments Work with Ronan Levy, Founder of Field Trip Health in full in the Spotify app