UNC Prof Determined to Get the High Out of Psychedelics

July 7, 2021 13:20:12

The ongoing psychedelic renaissance has brought on a new wave of research on psychedelics, with many studies discovering the various therapeutic benefits that the substances possess. In the last 10 years, privately financed clinical studies have demonstrated the value of psychedelics in treating substance use disorders, anxiety and depression, with MDMA being found to be efficacious in the treatment of PTSD.

Earlier in 2019, the Food and Drug Administration gave its approval to the first-ever ketamine-based antidepressant. Studies on psilocybin have also found that the compound is very effective in treating depression. However, Dr. Bryan Roth from the UNC School of Medicine notes that the use of psychedelic drugs as conventional medicines may not be possible, given their hallucinatory trips.

In an interview, Roth, who is a trained pharmacologist and psychiatrist, explained that while compounds such as psilocybin were effective in one dose, most individuals would not be willing to experience a psychedelic trip, adding that the experience would be frightening for some. Nonetheless, psychedelics are in high demand, with data showing that the substances would be worth billions of dollars if they were to occupy a small market share of the mental health treatment market.

A report released by Open Minds, a market research firm, also found that in 2019, more than $220 billion was spent on mental health services and treatments in the United States, with the number set to increase exponentially.

To help with this, Roth is working on research to discover drugs that bind to the serotonin receptors in the brain and activate them, without causing a psychedelic trip. Through a $27 million grant awarded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Roth and a team of expert researchers from Duke and Stanford universities are using a program called Ultra Large-Scale-Docking to produce theoretical psychedelic compounds that can activate serotonin receptors in the brain.

The researchers plan to develop the compounds that the computer determines to be the ones most likely to activate the 5-HT-2A receptor without causing hallucinations. For this to be done, the researchers will have to test any compounds identified to ensure that they can bind to the receptor and that they possess the therapeutic benefits required, before they can be developed. Roth admits that this may not even be possible as it may be hard to separate the psychedelic trip from the therapy, but he remains hopeful.

The contract with Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is expected to last four years. However, this is dependent on the success of the researchers’ experiments.

Many companies, including XPhyto Therapeutics Corp. (CSE: XPHY) (OTCQB: XPHYF) (FSE: 4XT), are conducting R&D activities with the intent of finding psychedelic remedies to mental health challenges. It may not be long before approved therapies in this class become readily available to those who need them.

NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to XPhyto Therapeutics Corp. (CSE: XPHY) (OTCQB: XPHYF) (FSE: 4XT) are available in the company’s newsroom at https://ibn.fm/XPHYF

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