Are Psychedelic Therapeutics a New Frontier of Mental Health Treatment?

Drug Topics JournalDrug Topics May 2024
Volume 168
Issue 04

In a conversation at this year’s American Pharmacists Association Annual Meeting & Exposition, Sa’ed Al-Olimat outlined the potential of psychedelic therapeutics in treating mental health disorders.

According to Sa’ed Al-Olimat, PharmD, co-founder of the Psychedelic Pharmacists Association, the current psychedelic landscape is rapidly evolving. Even though psychedelics are still classified as illegal substances in most jurisdictions, the range of potential indications for compounds like ketamine—described by Al-Olimat as the “wild west”—MDMA, and psilocybin are being explored for a variety of promising medical uses.

“What’s interesting is that we see all of these potential indications used for these psychedelics, and that’s why they’re labeled as transdiagnostic agents,” said Al-Olimat in a conversation with Drug Topics at this year’s American Pharmacists Association Annual Meeting & Exposition. “[Psychedelics] can span across different diagnoses—and the reason why is because we’re recognizing that it’s about addressing the root cause, working through trauma, and utilizing psychedelics as tools for the form of active coping versus passive coping—which is what we see with general antidepressants.”

Evidence demonstrating the pharmacologic effects of psychedelic therapeutics in addressing mental health disorders like anxiety, substance use disorder, eating disorders, and more, is growing. MDMA is forecasted to gain FDA approval sometime this year for PTSD, and psilocybin has been granted breakthrough designation from the FDA for treatment-resistant depression and major depressive disorder.

“As research comes out [and] folks use these compounds—and once they’re approved—we’ll see a lot more data to suggest potential indications for other disorders outside of what’s been currently studied,” said Al-Olimat.

While the potential for psychedelic treatments in mainstream health care is clear, the question of integration remains. Al-Olimat outlined what that future may look like for a patient being treated with MDMA.

“You’ll be able to meet up with a prescriber…and have your screening. You’ll have your preparation with your potential co-facilitators that will be there during [your] session, or sessions plural,” said Al-Olimat. “Specialty pharmacies will handle the logistics of the medicine [and] check in with patients throughout the process. Patients will visit clinicians in their clinics [for their dose days]. Trained psychotherapists—hopefully pharmacists, one day, too— will be working with [patients] through their trauma in a very safe and supportive setting,” said Al-Olimat.

Read more of our coverage from the 2024 APhA Annual Meeting & Exposition here.

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