The state of Kentucky joins the growing number of regions that are investing in psychedelics by injecting tens of millions of dollars into researching the therapeutic potential of hallucinogens in substance use disorders. More specifically, Kentucky is investing more than $40 million in psychedelic research as part of its efforts to curb the growing opioid addiction crisis.
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said in a recent Kentucky Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission (KYOAAC) news conference that the commission wanted to investigate novel treatments for people suffering from opioid use disorder. The commission was formed in 2022 to distribute more than $842 million, which was part of a larger $26 billion settlement from large pharmaceutical companies due to the role they played in causing the opioid crisis.
Since the 1990s, America has been in the grip of an opioid crisis that has taken more than half a million lives and affected millions of Americans. Kentucky has been especially affected by the opioid epidemic and recently experienced an all-time fatality rate of 2,250 deaths from overdoses due to the coronavirus pandemic and a surge of black-market fentanyl into the market.
Cameron noted during the meeting that Kentucky loses more than 2,000 residents each year to addiction and stressed that this “cannot continue.” The commission announced that its new grant proposal was meant to study novel treatments that could “reverse the chemical effects” caused by opioid addiction and withdrawal.
According to KYOAAC chairman Bryan Hubbard, the state must use “any and all means” to tackle the opioid pandemic that takes thousands of Kentuckians’ lives each year. He said that the next phase of the fight against opioid addiction will involve investigating therapies that have breakthrough potential to create new treatments that could completely cure opioid dependence and give people a new lease on life.
This will involve providing $42 million to support research into the therapeutic potential of ibogaine for the next six years until the psychedelic goes through the FDA drug approval process. Ibogaine is a natural psychedelic produced by a Western African shrub called iboga that has traditionally been used in initiation rituals and healing ceremonies by specific communities in the region.
Although the drug is currently outlawed by the FDA, studies have found that it has the potential to treat addiction in patients with opioid use disorder. However, most of these studies have been limited to small sample size, and most researchers say that more research is needed to fully understand the effect of ibogaine on substance abuse disorders.
As Kentucky focuses on studying the therapeutic potential of ibogaine, other nonstate actors elsewhere, such as Field Trip Health Ltd. (OTC: FTHWF) (TSX: FTHW), are also engaged in studying other psychedelic compounds. The goal is to develop medicines for other mental health conditions for which current treatments aren’t providing the desired relief to many of those diagnosed with psychiatric ailments.
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