Psychedelics are experiencing a renaissance of sorts. What its early pioneers had suspected and were exploring in the mid 20th century with regards to therapeutic efficacy are now, five decades later, coming full circle with validation through scientifically proven measures.
Albert Hoffman, a Swiss chemist, discovered LSD in 1938 in Basel, Switzerland. Mr. Hoffman was also responsible for isolating the first psilocybin compound in 1957 while working for Sandoz Pharmaceuticals Labs, which in 1958 produced the first synthetic psilocybin drug called Indocybin that was marketed for psychotherapeutic uses in the 1960s.
The early days of psychedelics as medicine were short-lived, but it laid the groundwork for the exciting revelations that are occurring today.
Abuse, Misuse & Schedule I
The Harvard Psilocybin Project was a series of trials between 1960 and 1962 conducted by two psychology professors, Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert, who administered psychedelics, including LSD, psilocybin and mescaline, to students in an attempt to understand their effects on people.
Both professors unceremoniously split ties with Harvard in 1963, due to the administration of their drug project. However, both men continued to influence Harvard for years to come by initiating debates on the role of psychedelics on campus and playing a prominent role in bringing 1960s drug culture to the main stream of America’s consciousness.
Because of the unscientific administration and public fear of the dangers of widespread use, psychedelics were criminalized and classified in 1970 as an illicit Schedule I drug with no therapeutic benefits. The reckless use and abuse during this era caused Albert Hoffman to later refer to LSD as his ‘problem child.’
After five decades, psychedelics still remain illegal and stigmatized in many parts of the world, but new studies are showing promise in the therapeutic effects of psychedelics as treatment for chronic ailments.
A New Foothold in Science
The launch of Johns Hopkins’ Center for Psychedelic Research & Consciousness in September 2019 and the April 2019 launch of its counterpart at Imperial College in London, has given psychedelic medicine its long-sought and coveted standing in the scientific establishment. These drugs will require further evidence before they can be prescribed by physicians, but quite a few of the clinical studies are in advanced stages of the trials, and results are expected as early as 2021.
New Trading in Public Markets
At the forefront of these studies are innovative companies creating this new frontier from a medicinal and financial perspective. Psychedelic neuroscience companies have gone public within the first couple of months in 2020, and perhaps a few more may follow this year.
These IPOs coupled with the groundbreaking research being done, which has already yielded promising results in ongoing studies, equates to tremendous opportunities for investors in public markets unlike anything ever seen, except for the .com boom of the 90s perhaps.
However, unlike the tech industry, there are only a handful of companies with the credentials to collaborate in these FDA approved studies so the field of first to market is relatively small, the price of entry is reasonable, and industry developments are occurring at a rapid rate.
Movement to Decriminalize
While the focus of the psychedelics reform movement remains on the therapeutic effects of these drugs to treat serious health conditions and be administered in clinical sessions, some jurisdictions around the U.S. are making the bold move to decriminalize the use and possession of psilocybin.
The movement appears to come on the heels of the popularity with microdosing psychedelics, the practice of taking small doses on a regular basis to increase creativity, production and cognitive brain function, where the success of this practice has been widely covered by the tech industry in Silicon Valley.