Most psychedelic research is still in its infancy and is concerned with understanding the mechanisms that allow psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin mushrooms to deliver a myriad of mental health benefits. The existing body of scientific literature on the subject has found that several classic psychedelics have the potential to offer long-term relief against hard-to-treat mental disorders, including treatment-resistant depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
However, several questions about psychedelics remain. Of these questions, a commonly asked one is whether different genders respond to psychedelics differently. Do women respond differently to psychedelic-based treatments than men? Furthermore, how can physicians account for different gender needs when approaching psychedelic-assisted therapy for various mental ailments?
Juan Pablo Cappello, CEO and cofounder of Nue Life, recently published an article looking at women and psychedelics in the “MIT Technology Review.” Nue Life is a ketamine-therapy platform focused on next-gen mental wellness. Cappello stated that the company was formed with the knowledge that women older than 40 years of age receive three to four times more antidepressant prescriptions in comparison to men. As a result, he noted, roughly one in every five women take antidepressants regularly.
Research has shown that women are also more likely to be affected by conditions such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, which can all be potentially managed by psychedelic-assisted therapy. They also experience higher rates of dismissive treatment and misdiagnosis from healthcare providers compared to men.
However, women may not be as likely to take part in psychedelic-based studies as men because of childcare responsibilities, safety concerns and the stigma associated with drug use among women.
Taking these gender differences into account while designing psychedelic healthcare services will be critical to ensuring that healthcare providers can meet different gender needs adequately. In addition, the industry should place special research emphasis on hormonal fluctuations in women and how they can potentially affect the psychedelic experience.
Menstrual cycles, pregnancies and menopause are all characterized by hormonal fluctuations that can influence the therapeutic outcomes and subjective effects of various psychedelic-assisted therapies. This means the industry will likely have to invest in tailored psychedelic research that accounts for hormonal fluctuations with the potential to alter the psychedelic experience.
Women have been historically underrepresented in clinical trials in various medical fields, and this affects the quality of medical care they receive because it has limited medical understanding of women’s bodies. Industry stakeholders need to take extra steps to ensure women are adequately represented in psychedelic-based studies. Championing the inclusion of women in the nascent psychedelic research space and focusing on how gender differences affect psychedelic experiences will be key to developing specialized treatments.
The matter of paying special attention to gender concerns is something that psychedelic drug-development companies such as Seelos Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ: SEEL) need to take seriously so that any formulations that they commercialize are efficacious for both genders.
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