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Kentucky Commission Receives Expert Testimonies on Psychedelics Benefits as Opioid Treatments

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The Kentucky Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission has begun taking expert testimonies on the benefits of using psychedelics to treat opioid use disorder. Psychedelics have emerged as a potential alternative treatment to a wide variety of mental disorders in recent years, thanks to an influx of psychedelic-based research.

Scientists have found that psychedelic compounds such as psilocybin can aid in the treatment of conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and substance-use disorder.

A panel of experts in Kentucky is now receiving testimonies on the potential benefits of incorporating psychedelic-assisted therapy into opioid use disorder treatment protocols. The panel comprised of cellular and molecular pharmacologist Dr. Deborah Mash, behavioral neurologist and neuropsychiatrist Dr. Nolan Williams, neuropsychiatrist Dr. Kenneth Alper, and neurobiologist and neuropharmacologist Dr. Drini Rao.

Karen Butcher, a Kentucky resident who lost her son to an opioid overdose in 2020, asked the panel why Kentucky couldn’t explore psychedelic use as a potential treatment for opioid use disorder if the cost wasn’t a factor. Butcher was specifically asking about ibogaine, a naturally occurring psychedelic that has shown potential as a treatment for opioid addiction.

Mash noted that there was “no substantive reason” holding back further clinical exploration of ibogaine The opioid crisis has taken over half a million lives in the United States from 1999 to 2020 and has become deadlier in recent years thanks to the introduction of drugs such as fentanyl.

In Kentucky, more than 9,000 have lost their lives due to opioid overdose since 2018, signaling the state’s need for more effective opioid addiction treatments. Some Kentucky officials are also asking the commonwealth to fund clinical studies investigating ibogaine’s potential as a treatment for opioid use disorder, with the chair of the Kentucky Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission Bryan Hubbard suggesting that these studies be funded in part by settlement money from opioid lawsuits.

At the moment, psychedelic-based treatments are only accessible to those who take part in clinical trials or individuals who are wealthy enough to travel to other countries that allow psychedelic-assisted therapy. Hubbard and the panel of experts are looking to change this by making psychedelics more accessible locally.

Mash has studied psychedelics for decades and states that ibogaine can help to break people out of the cycle of addiction. She and her team were investigating an ibogaine-based drug in the early 1990s, but her research ran aground when the National Institute of Drug Abuse pulled its funding.

With other startups such as Compass Pathways PLC (NASDAQ: CMPS) now studying other psychedelics, such as psilocybin, mental health treatment could be transformed in the years to come.

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