The therapeutic effects of the psychedelic compound psilocybin, derived from so-called “magic mushrooms” such as Psilocybe semilanceata, are now being more widely understood by medical science. One drawback of psilocybin-assisted therapeutic interventions is the requirement for the experience to be closely monitored and supported, due to the often-intense psychedelic and hallucinogenic experiences that can result from consumption. However, new efforts are trying to tease out what would be a minimal effective dose of psilocybin, one that would have beneficial effects on the brain whilst minimizing hallucinatory experiences. Technology Networks talked to Steven Sadoff, co-founder and CEO of Canadian company Sansero Life Sciences to find out more.
Ruairi Mackenzie (RM): What evidence base currently exists around the dosing of psilocybin?
Steven Sadoff (SS): It is slowly becoming understood by scientific and medical communities that psilocybin is relatively safe. In addition to historical evidence, scientific studies have demonstrated that, even at high doses, there appears to be few – if any – long-term side effects. There are obviously drastic mental changes that can occur from such an experience that have been likened to a “reset” or “rewiring” of the brain, but as far as safety goes, toxicity is not a major issue. However, research is still lacking when it comes to understanding the impact of microdose levels of psilocybin consumption and the effect of this consumption over a longer period of time. This is some of the work we are performing at Sansero.
RM: How will the Toronto study be structured? How will participants be dosed?
SS: The study will begin with rodents. They will receive a daily microdose of our formulations for a number of weeks in order to assess both the safety and efficacy. The animals’ vitals, metabolites and activities related to mental health will be analyzed.
RM: Is there currently any evidence to suggest that one can show therapeutic benefit from psilocybin in the absence of a psychedelic experience?
SS: Both survey-based studies as well as the data we have gathered directly from our own research indicate a benefit for many people from microdosing without any intoxication or hallucination. While there are a number of groups actively working in this area, there have not been many published papers on placebo-based studies performed on microdosing to date. We expect more research to come out in the coming years.
RM: What would a hypothetical minimal effective dose of psilocybin look like? Would it be taken more regularly?
SS: While a microdose is defined as a sub-perceptual dose, the minimal effective dose is either a slightly higher dose or is potentiated with molecules that increase the efficacy of the psilocybin or psilocin to the point that the patient “feels” an effect from the drug. The amount of dried mushroom varies depending on body weight and other factors.
RM: Would any MED treatment still be paired with psychotherapy?
SS: While the compound alone is highly beneficial for some people, as with the macrodose therapies being studied, we suspect that the preparation and integration of the experience may enhance the benefits of the medicine. As we progress into human trials, we may include cohorts of patients that receive therapy along with the medicine in order to quantify the benefits that this might have.
Steven Sadoff was speaking to Ruairi J Mackenzie, Science Writer for Technology Networks