Evidence-based psychedelic-assisted therapy…Huh?

I admit, when I first learned of Numinus Wellness Inc. I balked at the idea of “evidence-based psychedelic-assisted therapy.” It was too Scooby Doo for me —after all, I was the Debbie Downer in high school always turning away magic mushrooms and drops of LSD. But as I read more into Numinus Wellness Inc. (NUMI. V) (TSX-V 0.2650) I realized it wasn’t just about mushrooms and acid.

As Founder of Kydder Group Inc., I have made mental health advocacy a priority. Having experienced depression, ADHD (high impulsivity) and generalized anxiety from adolescence to where I stand today, it was important to put my efforts into eliminating stigma and championing positive mental health communication for those working in multiple ecosystems. This includes founders and entrepreneurs, who according to a study by Dr. Michael Freeman, “are 50 percent more likely to report having a mental health condition, with some specific conditions being incredibly prevalent amongst founders. Founders are: 2X more likely to suffer from depression; 6X more likely to suffer from ADHD; 3X more likely to suffer from substance abuse; 10X more likely to suffer from bi-polar disorder; 2X more likely to have psychiatric hospitalization; 2X more likely to have suicidal thoughts.” (Quote attributed to Jake Chapman at Tech Crunch). The numbers are staggering and can’t be ignored — entrepreneurs need help, fast.

My company does provide mental health wellness strategies for founders and entrepreneurs, and we are committed to building a VC-supported fund over the next two years to help subsidize coaching and life therapies for tech companies in Atlantic Canada. However, I personally believe all therapies should be considered, and that includes the potential use of psychedelics in the treatment of chronic mental health issues.

A little background. The acceleration of evidence-based psychedelic-assisted therapy is gaining significant momentum across North America with Numinus Wellness Inc. leading the charge in Canada. Currently, Health Canada regulates psychedelics under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA). MDMA and ketamine are Schedule I controlled substances, while LSD and psilocybin are both Schedule III controlled substances. Go here to find current regulatory information in Canada. In 2020, the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved MDMA and psilocybin as investigational medicines. “Regulatory Pharmaceutical companies (or sponsors) submit their Investigational New Drug (IND) Applications to the Center for Drug Evaluation & Research (CDER) at the FDA. Note the use of the word drug: FDA refers to new chemical entities as drugs, because in the FDA’s vocabulary they are chemicals intended to treat disease; but the psychedelic community often refers to psychedelics as medicines.” (Information provided by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies — MAPS).

After announcing their $4.05M short form prospectus offering earlier this week had been rapidly oversubscribed, Numinus has effectively closed their books. Goal achieved. What’s next for the first publicly traded company in Canada to be granted a licence by Health Canada to conduct research of this kind? The answer is Compassionate Access, a program supported by Health Canada under its Special Access Programme. Numinus believes “this is the fastest, lowest-cost method for creating a regulated and revenue-generating psychedelic-assisted therapy model in Canada…establishing Numinus’s protocols as the basis for regulated standards of delivery.” (Message shared via company newsletter on July 30, 2020).

Barring a catastrophic study or trial, mental health could be in for a revolutionary changing of the guard in terms of how we treat those suffering with mood and other cognitive disorders. Acknowledging the mental health crisis — a tiring term with more RPMs than a super torqued Corvette engine — Numinus is promoting its therapies as a solution of “not if… but when.” The company is nailing it on the communications front. Their collaterals are clean, clear and consistent, they present a highly confident and structured executive leadership and research team, and their message is progressive without alarm, meaning they take precautionary measures not to cloud the current stigma around “psychedelics.” Unlike the anti-Cannabis lobby that had been prevalent in mainstream discourse and the political arena prior to legalization in October 2018, for the most part all has been quiet on the mushroom front. I chalk that up to a good government relations policy, albeit it’s still pretty early in the game.

Competition in the psychedelic manufacturing marketplace will eventually ramp up as market viability matures in the coming years. I predict Numinus will be crowned — much like Canopy Growth Corp. (Market cap: $4.18 billion TSE WEED) was in cannabis — the biggest leader in the extraction of psilocybin from mushrooms. Time will be the great teller of fortune, but for now there’s optimism in the air…or maybe that’s just cannabis I smell.

Written by Michael Kydd, Principal/Founder of Kydder Group Inc., a Halifax, NS expert public relations group solving problems in Technology, Mental Health and Social Entrepreneurship.

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