When is a medical treatment not a medical treatment?

I listen to a lot of podcasts and audiobooks.

That’s how I do most of my “reading”. For some reason I absorb information better that way. And I can go about my daily life while listening, which means I can fit a lot of “reading” into an average day.

One of the best podcasts I listen to is by Tim Ferriss. He basically interviews “high level performers” from many different disciplines and deconstructs their routines, tools and beliefs.

He also spends a lot of time experimenting on himself and reporting on it. He’s been called “the world’s best human guinea pig” by Newsweek.

Earlier this month he released what he’s says “might be the most important podcast episode I’ve put out in the last two years.”

And the reason I am bringing it up is because that podcast is all about an emerging field of medicine that ties closely with what my colleagues Eoin Treacy and Sam Volkering are covering right now.

It’s also something I write about a lot in Exponential Investor. As Ferriss said in his podcast, this subject “will surprise you, perhaps shock you, and definitely make you think differently.”

Why? Because it brings up a big moral dilemma. And it forces people to question some of their most strongly held views. And perhaps more importantly, question what they have been told by their governments and police forces.

It all revolves around medical treatments. Being outspoken on these treatments has caused some high-level people, such as Britain’s Professor David Nutt, to lose their jobs.

No currently accepted medical use?

Why? Well, it’s all to do with how these treatments are classified by governments. A schedule 1 drug is defined by the US’s Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) as:

… substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Some examples of Schedule I drugs are:

heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote

You’ll notice that cannabis is a schedule 1 drug, yet it has many proven medical uses, as I wrote about a few weeks ago.

And over the last few years, medical researchers have been finding uses for a number of other scheduled drugs, including ketamine, MDMA and psychedelics such as LSD, mushrooms and DMT.

The interesting thing about these findings is these illegal drugs are proving to be viable treatments for conditions traditional treatments are failing at.

The key ones are depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and end of life care.

For instance:

Ketamine can reduce depression “within hours”

Most anti-depressants work on regulation of serotonin. Serotonin plays a key role in our mood. These anti-depressants stop the “re-uptake” of serotonin and leave more of it floating around in our bodies.

The problem is, in many cases this method doesn’t work too well.

As Michael Pollan, the guest and author on Tim Ferriss’ podcast, notes:

“It’s important to understand how few tools psychiatry has to deal with mental health problems in general. The last major innovation was the introduction of Prozac in the late ’80s, and those anti-depressants aren’t working very well anymore. They’re fading in their effects, they only do a little bit better than placebos in trials, and people hate the side effects – they’re very hard to get off of.”

And that’s where ketamine comes in. As a 2012 study found:

A notable recent discovery shows that ketamine, a N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antagonist, produces rapid (within hours) antidepressant responses in patients who are resistant to typical antidepressants. Basic studies show that ketamine rapidly induces synaptogenesis and reverses the synaptic deficits caused by chronic stress. These findings highlight the central importance of homeostatic control of mood circuit connections and form the basis of a synaptogenic hypothesis of depression and treatment response.

Ketamine works in a different way to current anti-depressants and as you can see, it has proven to be a very promising treatment in depression and anxiety.

The authors of that study ketamine: “the most important discovery in half a century.”

And a more recent study, this year concluded:

Ketamine demonstrated a greater reduction in clinically significant suicidal ideation in depressed patients within 24 hours compared with midazolam, partially independently of antidepressant effect.

MDMA is an effective treatment for PTSD

MDMA – better known as ecstasy – the chosen drug of 90s ravers, has proven to be an effective treatment for PTSD.

When combined with talking therapy, it was found to be a very effective treatment. So much so that the FDA has granted it a “breakthrough therapy” designation.

And as reported in Business Insider:

Rick Doblin, founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies — a leading nonprofit behind psychedelic research — believes ecstasy is the “most likely” psychedelic to get adopted first by mental health professionals.

The results and the fact that MDMA received an FDA “breakthrough therapy” designation — a label designed to hasten the research and approval process — convinced some experts that the drug will be approved as early as 2021. The next phase of research is set to begin this summer and will involve roughly 250 people.

You can read about the success of the trial here in The Lancet. The study looked at:

(MDMA)-assisted psychotherapy for post-traumatic stress disorder in military veterans, firefighters, and police officers.

But perhaps the most promising treatment of all is cannabis

It has been proven to help with:

  • Epilepsy
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Crohn’s disease and inflammatory bowel disease
  • Glaucoma
  • Chronic pain.

As you can see in my article here.

Not only does something like this have the potential for a massive investment return, but it is also making people’s lives better. It’s providing treatments where there were no good treatments before. 

The problems these drugs face is one of image.

It’s because they first became known as recreational or “party” drugs. And only later did they get proven to be effective medical treatments.

If it had happened the other way around things would have gone very differently.

I suppose the question is, do we want effective treatments for difficult-to-treat conditions like depression, PTSD and anxiety – even if that means rethinking how we classify recreational drugs?

Or do we care more about an ideology, and the idea that any drug that can be used recreationally is inherently bad and must be eradicated?

Until next time,

Harry Hamburg
Editor, Exponential Investor

Category: Commodities

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