MidPoint: Psychedelics for mental health

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Operations volunteer Jessica Green, Dr. Chris Witowski, and MidPoint host Shelley Reback

Depression and anxiety seem to be a prevailing mood among the masses, and the clinical diagnosis and treatment of such mental illnesses still leave much to be desired. Adverse side effects from prescription medication and a continued sense of distress have given way to new thought processes and ideas on how mental illness could be treated in the future.

This week on MidPoint, chemist and researcher Dr. Chris Witkowski of Psilera Bioscience discusses their development of therapeutic and medicinal uses of natural psychedelics–psilocybin magic mushrooms.

Listen to the full episode here:

What is Psilera Working With?

The purpose of Psilera Bioscience’s research is “harnessing psychedelics themselves”. The positive properties of these naturally-derived substances are known, beyond their hallucinogenic capabilities. With further research and alteration, Dr. Witkowski says that he has full confidence that they can change the way society treats mental health problems.

A lot of the substances they work with are “Schedule 1”, which means they are illegal and considered to be at high risk for addiction and with no medical benefits. However, their research is working to prove otherwise, and their communication with the DEA and their research with the University of South Florida has started the process of changing that conversation.

One of the main focuses of Psilera’s research is on dimethyltryptamine (DMT). DMT is found to be in the brains of rats and pigs and is considered a neuro-protectant. At high doses, it can be hallucinogenic. But, it is of particular interest to the company because of its natural occurrence in the brain, and its potential uses in brain function. Their current project is to create microdoses of DMT through dermal patches so that recipients can feel the psychoactive effects without the hallucinogenic trips. Similar experiments and micro-dosing trials have been done using psilocybin, the main psychoactive in magic mushrooms.

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