[Noisebridge-discuss] PsychedelicSF

Daniel Jabbour daniel at psychedelicsf.org
Wed Feb 29 18:06:03 PST 2012


On Feb 29, 2012, at 5:45 PM, Sean Cusack wrote:
> I'm not quite sure I buy the whole government-pharma conspiracy thing in this instance (now, if you want to talk drug *cost*, I think that's a different issue). Medicare is broke - it would love to find a cheap, generic alternative to ptsd drugs currently marketed by big pharma. Why have psychadelics been held back?
> 
This is actually a fascinating question. I wouldn't call it a conspiracy at all; history speaks for itself, all you'll need to do is a little research.

The basic answer is economic. MAPS will be spending $10m over a decade to push a single drug (MDMA) through the clinical trial process. After psychedelics were banned in the 60s, research was all by halted until the current FDA process MAPS has started undertaking. MAPS as an organization has existed in 1986, and at that time they were unable to conduct any of their psychedelic research in the US.

In the 60s, when the government was wrestling with the counterculture movement (the "hippies" of which many have alluded to), which was culturally aligned with the wide-spread use of psychedelics without much therapeutic or spiritual context. Dow Chemical was very close to pushing some of Sasha Shulgin's compounds through the FDA/patent process, but ultimately the board decided that its ties to government were more important than the financial benefit these compounds could have long-term. And since the government was using the new "war on drugs," launched in the 70s under Nixon as a way to attack the counter-culture, Dow, along with big pharma decided not to go near it. This is despite tons of positive early research (which was used by MAPS in their arguments to the FDA, and ultimately was accepted). I won't bother citing all the early research: but everything from reduction in recidivism in violent criminals, to treatment of PTSD and anxiety, to spiritual growth in the religious. 

Today, most of these compounds are out of patent. So economically big pharma would have to spend $10m+, a decade of research, and wage political and legal battles to turn these compounds into generic drugs, which other chemical labs could easily synthesize and sell. Not to mention, selling two pills a year is a whole lot less profitable than a continuous supply of pills required for most existing psychopharmaceutical drugs. Additionally, psychedelic drugs are difficult to experiment with- they are hard to design double-blind studies around, require the "set" and "setting" of the treatment to be influential in the therapy, and are accompanied by rigorous talk therapy. MAPS has worked around these issues in some very awesome and creative ways, you can read about this on their research pages. This is why non-profits are forced to be the leaders in this space.

Some great history is available here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multidisciplinary_Association_for_Psychedelic_Studies
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Shulgin

--
Daniel Jabbour
Organizer, Psychedelic Society of San Francisco
http://www.PsychedelicSF.org
daniel at psychedelicsf.org

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