An Edmonton startup company is laying the foundation to be a major player in the growing global medical psychedelic market by studying the drug’s effects on mental health.
Dr. Peter Silverstone, interim chair of the department of psychiatry at the University of Alberta, is going public with the plans this week. He aims to use his new company, PsiloTec Health Solutions, to run clinical trials on psychedelics. Then once it’s legal to prescribe, he would grow it, treat patients in a local clinic, and run online clinics as a resource to empower doctors elsewhere.
Silverstone has spent more than 30 years studying the brain and pharmaceuticals. For years, he took an interest in the study of psilocybin, the psychedelic compound found in magic mushrooms, and its effects on mental health.
Silverstone said in an exclusive interview with Postmedia that he believes psychedelics can be used as a new form of treatment to help people suffering from some types of mental illness, such as depression, and has created a company called PsiloTec Health Solution in order to achieve that dream.
“The need for mental health support and treatment is absolutely overwhelming and of course, it’s being made worse in the COVID-19 environment,” he said. “We hope and intend to be in a position where we are the leading producer of different varieties of psilocybin containing mushrooms organically grown and have a rich database of high-quality clinical research showing when it is more efficacious. I think that will not only help us but also help regulatory authorities.”
Silverstone said the first step will be to acquire an exemption to run clinical studies on the benefits of psychedelics from Health Canada.
The federal government has granted exceptions before. The SYNTAC Institute, a non-profit organization in Calgary, was allowed in December to provide psilocybin-assisted treatment to a patient with severe mental health challenges under the supervision of medical staff.
Silverstone said where psychedelics are legal, private clinics are beginning to offer them but charge several thousand dollars. His clinic and online resource would make psychedelics more accessible.
Silverstone said it may take up to two years before Canada makes psychedelics legal and when that happens, he hopes to be ready to help as many people as possible. He said he hopes to be able to start the first set of clinical trials within six months. The plan is to then have more intensive studies sometime in 2022.
The psychedelic market is still very new but interest has been growing over the last few years. According to Data Bridge, a market research company, the North American psychedelic market is forecast to have a compound annual growth rate of nearly 16 per cent from 2020 to 2027. By the end of that forecast period, the market is expected to reach more than $6.8 billion US.
Psychedelics have often been compared to cannabis but Silverstone said the two are fundamentally different.
“(Psychedelics) is not the new cannabis,” he said. “Unlike cannabis, (psychedelics are) not focused on the recreational market. It is only focused on the medical market. I think that’s the biggest difference. Obviously, there are similarities; (cannabis is) a new product that’s grown, that has some health benefits. But for me, psychedelics are all about new treatments.”
Editor’ note: This story has been changed to reflect the type of mushrooms produced and the market’s anticipated worth by 2027.
Want to know more about psychedelics?
- How To Change Your Mind: The New Science of Psychedelics – Michael Pollan
- The Psychedelics Explores Guide