- Celebrities report turning to psychedelics like psilocybin, ayahuasca, and ketamine for healing, spiritual growth, and personal well-being.
- Safe and effective psychedelic treatment is either out of reach or far out of budget of many people.
- Psychedelics can play a central role in improving mental health for all.
“I am cured.”
That’s what Mike Tyson, the former heavyweight champion of the world, shared about his experience with psychedelics, touting psilocybin (the psychoactive substance in magic mushrooms) as the cure for his depression and suicidal thoughts. He declared that such psychedelics should be accessible to the whole world.
More recently, Prince Harry came out about his experiences with magic mushrooms, crediting their powerful healing potential with helping him overcome trauma and grief. A long list of athletes and celebrities – from Aaron Rodgers and Seth Rogan to Miley Cyrus and Kristin Bell – are turning to psychedelics like psilocybin, ayahuasca, and ketamine for healing, spiritual growth, and personal well-being.
But what about the rest of us?
While recreational usage of psychedelics has certainly yielded similar praise from many an average Joe, there have also been cases in which it led to negative experiences such as increased anxiety, upsetting hallucinations, and worsened mental health. Beyond the obvious barrier of legality, there are major risks involved with any drugs that can alter your brain chemistry, especially for those already navigating mental health complications.
While psilocybin is approaching legality in the United States (after it was achieved in Colorado), there is still a stern warning label attached to these substances: Do not try this at home. Licensed medical professionals advise that experiencing psychedelics in a controlled therapeutic environment is the surest way to access the benefits of psychedelics without the harm.
But what about those who can’t afford to fly to South America to meet "Mama Ayahuasca" or drop $15K (USD) on MDMA treatment? Ketamine can run you hundreds of dollars in private clinic fees. Existing European access to psilocybin (not counting the flight expenses) can cost €1200-1700 and even €5500 for a one-on-one consultation. In the United States, the availability of psilocybin treatment is still pending FDA approval.
If the therapeutic power of psychedelics remains limited to the wealthy and privileged, millions worldwide who suffer unresolved mental health challenges, addiction, and health crises will remain in the dark – instead of echoing the words of these celebrities: “I am healed.”
As a research executive and CEO who has built a career studying and developing therapeutic compounds from cannabis to psychedelics over the last twenty years, I’m delighted that prominent individuals are speaking out about the potential of psychedelics. After long years of stigmatization, their voices will help continue the shift in public perception of – and thus the demand for – these substances. After all, personal stories, tied with research and changing attitudes, led to cannabis being legalized in many parts of the United States. Many say psychedelics will be next, but that cannot happen without tackling the problem of access.
I’d like to paint a picture of what affordable access to psychedelics could look like from some of the anecdotal evidence our company uncovered regarding a lesser-known psychoactive molecule called MEAI (novel compound 5-methoxy-2-aminoindane). Before our company acquired the patents for this novel psychedelic, there were hundreds of cases of recreational (albeit irresponsible) use.
In one of these cases, a woman named Terri decided to give MEAI to her father, whose severe alcohol addiction ruined almost every relationship in his life, including with his daughter. Even getting sober enough to go to an AA meeting or therapist wasn’t possible, and he couldn’t afford rehab. FDA-approved drugs for alcohol use disorder, like naltrexone, had extremely unpleasant side effects, so he didn’t touch them. Like many alcoholics, he was left to deal with the burden on his own. Until Terri started giving him MEAI.
Terri says what happened next was a miracle: she got her father back. He no longer experienced a desperate urge to drink – a glass of wine at dinner now sufficed. They spent time together again. And he was able to attend social functions where alcohol was present, free of the crippling fear of losing all control.
Access to psychedelics has the power to change lives, and public opinion and policy are changing. That means we must continue to share these stories – from celebrities to those struggling in the shadows. We need more research bills like those advanced recently in Arizona; we need bipartisan support and more education about the role that psychedelics can play in mental health and healthcare innovations. We need more states and countries to take steps toward legalizing and decriminalizing these substances, with regulations to protect them from abuse.
Healing shouldn’t only be accessible to the few: psychedelics can and should play a central role in improving the state of humanity’s mental health.