Mission Critical E22 Ronan Levy: Are Psychedelics The Future of Mental Healthcare?
Psychedelics are making a big comeback from their controversial history thanks to major breakthroughs in their ability to treat a range of mental health disorders—opening the doors to a future of incredible possibilities. In today’s episode, Lance speaks with Ronan Levy, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of Field Trip Health, a therapy and research centre that uses ketamine (yes, ketamine)-enhanced psychotherapy to help those suffering from treatment-resistant mental health conditions.
Ronan Levy and Lance chat about his journey into the psychedelics industry, the science behind ketamine-enhanced therapy, and the impact that psychedelics can have on mental health.
[03:42] How Ronan Levy got involved in the world of psychedelics
[09:07] Why and how psychedelics are going to change the industry of drugs
[17:44] Your experience if you walk through the doors at Field Trip Health
[24:35] Are mental illnesses curable?
[27:46] New and exciting research
[34:49] Long-term goals for Ronan Levy and Field Trip Health
Listen to the episode below or on your platform of choice.
Quick shout out to our friends at E2: Entrepreneurs Exposed. Launched back in 2018, E2 is now one of the fastest-growing entrepreneurship podcasts in Canada—recorded right here in Toronto. Check out one of the latest episodes with Second Closet’s, Mark Ang, or dive into some past interviews with folks like Bruce Linton of Canopy Growth, SkipTheDishes co-founder Jeff Adamson, Mike Gettis of Endy, and others. You can listen wherever you get your podcasts, just search for E2: Entrepreneurs Exposed.
Ronan Levy: Psychedelics have the potential to not only treat the sick, they actually have the potential to better the well. If we all kind of lift ourselves up from the people who are doing the best to the people who are doing worse, we’re all going to benefit from it.
Welcome to Mission Critical, a podcast about the big picture, the purpose, and the values that drive today’s most game-changing companies, entrepreneurs, and leaders. I’m your host, Lance Chung, Editor-in-Chief of Bay Street Bull and I’ll be introducing you to a group of brilliant minds who are making an impact on the world and forging the path ahead. While they may all be very different from one another, the question remains the same: What’s your mission?
What comes to mind when you think about psychedelics? Perhaps it’s hallucinogenic mind-bending experiences, or maybe you think about optimizing your productivity and unlocking the secrets of your brain. Experiences can vary wildly and part of our collective perception of psychedelics is no doubt impacted by the glamorization of the substances in media and pop culture. But while it may still be an area shrouded in mystery and mystique for many, there’s a lot more nuance to the world of psychedelics that has opened a whole universe of possibilities for mental health care and for business.
Today, psychedelics are making a big comeback from their controversial history, thanks to major breakthroughs in their ability to treat a range of disorders from substance abuse to depression. On today’s episode, I am speaking with Ronan Levy, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of Field Trip Health, a therapy and research center that uses ketamine—yes, ketamine—enhanced psychotherapy to help those suffering from treatment-resistant mental health conditions. Ronan previously cut his teeth as a lawyer, practicing corporate and security law before starting a career in the cannabis sector, building brands, and then serving as a Senior Vice President of Business and Corporate Affairs at Aurora Cannabis. In his view, psychedelics have the potential to eclipse the cannabis industry. Whereas the legal cannabis market hit about $19 billion in 2020 sales in the U.S. alone, the psychedelics industries estimated to be worth around $100 billion, according to Canaccord Genuity Corp, thanks to its applications in the mental health sphere. Today, Ronan Levy and I chat about his journey into the psychedelics industry, the science behind ketamine-enhanced therapy, and the impact that psychedelics can have on mental health.
Lance Chung: We have Ronan Levy, Co-founder and Executive Chairman of Field Trip Health. Ronan, it’s such a pleasure to be chatting with you today. How are you?
Ronan Levy: I’m doing well. Thank you for having me on it’s a pleasure to be chatting with you as well.
Lance Chung: So I have to preface our interview today by saying that I have very little understanding of the psychedelics industry, so this is going to be very much a big learning expedition for me, but I’m excited to learn a lot and explore it and then just dive into a big one-on-one on psychedelics in general. There’s a lot that I’d like to talk about from the research to mental health, to the business side of the industry, but I wanted to start with your journey first before we look at some of the bigger macro stuff.
Ronan Levy: My journey briefly is I’m a recovered lawyer. I started my career on Bay Street working at Blakes doing corporate and securities law but realized that I was, as one partner there described me, much too creative to be a lawyer. So I set off working at various different in-house roles before making the leap to entrepreneurship back in 2011 when I opened my first company. I never had aspirations of running that long term, so I continued doing some freelance legal work, working with start-ups where I met Joseph del Moral who’s the CEO of Field Trip, and Hannan Fleiman who’s our President. And we joined forces and started two sister companies, one called Canadian Cannabis Clinics, one called Canvas RX, which grew to be the largest provider of cannabis specialized medical services in Canada. We have 30 locations across Canada and sold that to Aurora Cannabis, which was their first acquisition. I took active roles within Aurora and helped that company scale from, just having a license to being one of the largest global producers of medical and adult-use cannabis in the world. I left in 2018 to find something new to do and that’s when we learned about what was happening with psychedelics. Just given the natural superficial parallels, we were very excited by the opportunity, but also realized that we had a unique skill set because unlike most other people in the cannabis industry, we actually saw from the clinical rollouts of how to administer cannabis medicine all the way to the scaling of production. So from a high-level perspective, if you’re looking at psychedelics and cannabis in the same way, we’re like, “Wow, there’s a really unique opportunity to create real impact and create a massive business and we’re uniquely qualified to do it.” So that’s how Field Trip was born, about six months after leaving Aurora back in 2018.
Lance Chung: Right, and I want to actually explore kind of the parallels and the differences between the psychedelics and the cannabis industry as well, especially given your experience navigating both of those landscapes. So you’re the Co-founder and Executive Chairman of Field Trip Health, what is Field Trip Health, and what makes it different from any other company out on the landscape and in the same industry?
Ronan Levy: So with Field Trip, we’re focused on the end-to-end development and delivery of psychedelic therapies. Just drawing an analogy to Aurora, where Aurora had the production side and after they acquired the clinic’s business, they have the full end-to-end customer or patient life cycle involved from prescription all the way to the delivery of medicine. As we started learning about psychedelics and the opportunities there, we realized it was not only smart and important from a business perspective to bring that same kind of thinking to the psychedelics industry, it also made sense therapeutically. What makes psychedelics so unique in the context of medicine is that it’s truly experiential medicine, which means that it’s not just the drug doing the work, it’s all the circumstances around the drug experience that lead to the therapeutic outcomes. In more common parlance, you may hear people talk about this notion of set and setting, which refers to the mindset a person brings into a psychedelic experience or the intention they have for that psychedelic experience, as well as the physical location that experience actually takes place in. The more people are in a good mindset and are in a safe environment where they feel comfortable, the better the therapeutic outcomes. So the experience really matters. As we started to look for opportunities in the psychedelic sector, we realized that if you’re focused only on developing new drugs or new products and not focused on the actual therapy that supports the delivery of these products or the locations or helping people prepare, an essential component of the therapeutic outcome is left to chance or to third parties or outside of your control. That didn’t seem to make a lot of sense to us in terms of how to build this industry which is so nascent and so that’s why we focused on doing the end-to-end development. How we’re executing that is we have two divisions in Field Trip Health, which is actually building clinical infrastructure to deliver psychedelic therapies. Right now, primarily working with ketamine-assisted therapy. I can go into a lot more detail about all the different molecules out there operating in Toronto, New York, LA, Chicago, Atlanta, and now Houston, with plans to scale to about 75 locations. Then on the other side, there’s Field Trip discovery, which is our R and D division, which is developing what we expect to be the first next-generation psychedelic molecule to get FDA approval sometime in about five to six years or so-called FT-104. What’s so exciting about FT-104 is that it’s very much like psilocybin, which we think is going to be a game-changer in mental and emotional health treatments but is better in a number of different ways so you kind of get all the best parts of psilocybin but enhanced even further. So that’s what Field Trip is in a not-so-brief nutshell.
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Lance Chung: Now you’ve obviously entered an industry that is new and changing, evolving, and there could be a lot of volatility there. What do you think is the biggest potential for the psychedelics industry from your standpoint? What’s the biggest thing that’s coming down the road and what can we harness from the industry and the potential of it?
Ronan Levy: The potential of the industry, and again I’ll use an analogy to cannabis because I just think it’s helpful, people think cannabis is a massive industry, and it is but it’s an industry by and large for and of itself, which means it’s supplying cannabis users with now-legal cannabis. Yes, it’s displacing some alcohol use and yes, it is displacing some opioid and other pain medication use, but by and large cannabis, the bulk of the industry is for cannabis users. Psychedelics on the other hand are going to, in my mind at least and I think a lot of people believe this now, going to fundamentally displace how we think about treating mental and emotional health conditions like depression, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, and actually, there’s a number of other indications as well that could be treated. Unlike the $100 billion or so cannabis industry, we’re talking about many hundreds of billions, if not a trillion-dollar mental health industry that I think is actually going to be turned on its head, as psychedelic therapy starts to go mainstream. The reason I believe that is because when you look at the evidence, psychedelic therapies are just orders of magnitude more effective than current treatment options. This isn’t just in small academic settings anymore, we’re talking about MAPS, which is the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a U.S. non-profit that is in phase three trials with MDMA assisted therapy. In their phase three FDA-approved trial, they showed that 70 percent of participants no longer had PTSD after three MDMA-assisted therapy sessions. This is not taking a drug every day that’s dulling and creates anxiety and causes sexual dysfunction and leads to limited improvements—these people are potentially cured of PTSD after just three sessions. This is just a different level of success than all current treatment options. You look at the same thing with psilocybin-assisted therapy, where a single psilocybin-assisted therapy session can provide up to five years of antidepressant relief. Again, it’s just not taking a pill every day that makes people feel dull and bad and generally unpleasant. A single session, which tends to be by and large quite enjoyable and very meaningful to people, can provide antidepressant relief for five years or more. That’s what we’re talking about here. This is a complete revolution in not all but a substantial part of what is growing to become the biggest global burden of disease. By 2025, it’s expected that depression and anxiety are going to cost the global economy, forget the exact statistics, it’s something like $8 or $16 trillion annually from lost productivity and the cost of treating mental health conditions because our current approaches just aren’t working. So that’s the opportunity. That’s what’s coming down the pipes with psychedelics and why we’re so excited about it.
Lance Chung: Given your experience working on the cannabis side, you know, we saw as cannabis was becoming legalized and rolling out, there was almost a rebranding of cannabis and how it was packaged, communicated, and marketed. Do you see psychedelics going through something similar to that on the road ahead in terms of shifting perception, shifting stigma, and maybe as a part of a broader awareness education campaign around it?
Ronan Levy: Yeah, I think so. I think it’s going to be a little bit different than cannabis because the rebranding was exactly that- or the rebranding of cannabis used to be called marijuana, right? Like the first regulations in Canada, were the marijuana for medical purposes regulations, and all of a sudden it got rebranded as “cannabis,” really tapping into tthe idyllic vision of the 1930s apothecary where it’s very naturalistic and holistic kind of treatment options of which cannabis at that time was one. With psychedelics, the rebranding is not going to come from a concerted marketing effort, the data is going to speak for itself. So even though there’s still a long way to go, in fact, we just commissioned a survey for Canada and the U.S. assessing people’s knowledge and awareness of psychedelics as well as their broader mental health, which we’ll be talking about in the next couple of weeks, but most people aren’t familiar with psychedelics. Most people still hold the stigmas associated with them, which are almost entirely false. If you went to high school, sometime in the same era as I did, you probably learned about all the dangers of drugs and remember that winners don’t do drugs or that dare not to do drugs ad where they fry the egg to compare it to your brain. Almost all of that is BS, straight-up BS. We know that psychedelics like psilocybin and LSD are non-addictive. In fact, they’re anti-addictive in many respects and can help people break alcohol addictions and tobacco addictions, It’s also it’s virtually impossible to overdose on psilocybin or LSD. There was one case study where a woman I think took 250 times a normal dose of LSD and she was sick for a couple of days, no doubt, but she was totally fine afterward and in fact, reported that it cured her bipolar disorder. So we’re talking about drugs that are safe physically, as well as the concerns around mental health and the bad trip and all that kind of stuff. It’s not that bad trips can’t happen, it’s not that people don’t have bad experiences, that is definitely possible. The likelihood of someone doing something absolutely absurd, like jumping out of a building cause they’re high on LSD is very low, but it’s even lower and virtually non-existent when we talk about in a therapeutic context when you’re going to have a doctor and or a therapist present to control the circumstances. So the risk of a bad trip or people doing something untoward on psychedelics is really low. When you look at the evidence around their efficacy and you look at the safety of this, then you just kind of look and let the data speak for itself and the rebranding is going to happen all by itself and we don’t have to make such a concerted business effort to do so.
Lance Chung: Field Trip has a specific emphasis on ketamine if I understand correctly, as opposed to other psychedelics. So what exactly, and this is part of my learning expedition as I mentioned, what exactly is the difference between the different types of psychedelics? What does ketamine specifically do and why have you chosen that as your place to focus on?
Ronan Levy: We’re focused on ketamine right now, but that’s not where we want to be. We really view ourselves as working with all psychedelic molecules as they become legalized or approved. The reason we’re working with ketamine right now is that it’s an FDA and Health Canada-approved drug. Approved for the use of it as an anesthetic but in fact, much of the psychedelic renaissance that we’re experiencing right now was born out of the fact that a number of researchers and doctors noticed that when they provided ketamine to their patients as an anesthetic, as a painkiller or as a general anesthetic for surgery, those people also reported that their mental health improved substantially after having it administered as an anesthetic. So the research started looking at whether ketamine could be used as a mental health treatment? And in fact, it can. It was so successful that the former director of the National Institute of Mental Health in the U.S., Dr. Tom Insel, reported that ketamine was one of the most important breakthroughs in its treatment of depression in decades. So it’s just a very effective drug and it’s available right now and it’s a psychedelic drug, even though it’s not classically known as a psychedelic, you have a very psychedelic experience when you have a subanesthetic dose of ketamine. People report having very pleasant out-of-body experiences, they’re able to revisit past traumas or past experiences that are maybe buried in their subconscious, or they’re just not willing to engage with when they’re not on ketamine and that they can go there and experience that. That’s in part what leads to these really amazing outcomes that we see with ketamine, as well as the other psychedelics. The evidence around the other psychedelics like MDMA and psilocybin is better than what we’re seeing with ketamine without doubt but the results on ketamine are still very fantastic relative to just antidepressants. So why are we working with ketamine? The short answer is because it’s legal and we can do it now, but we’re very much positioning ourselves to work with MDMA and psilocybin then as well as new molecules, like FT-104 which we’re developing right now as they come to market through regulatory or legal approvals.
Lance Chung: If I walk in through the doors of one of your offices, or in pandemic times I give you a call or something or make an appointment, what would categorize me as a good or not a good candidate for the treatments that are offered?
Ronan Levy: If you think about psychedelic therapies as being like conventional talk therapy, but supercharged with a psychedelic molecule, it’s easy to understand why psychedelic therapy can actually be very meaningful and constructive across a wide variety of mental health conditions. That being said, ketamine-assisted therapy or psilocybin, and MDMA therapy is not appropriate for everyone, but they are appropriate for a lot of people within our clinics. What would happen if you got in touch with us is that, after we answered whatever basic questions you had, we would do a basic screening from a psychiatric perspective, making sure that ketamine assisted therapy was appropriate. So that means that there is a valid medical need. Now, it’s specific from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, so in Ontario, the medical need would need to be a treatment-resistant, mental health condition, so that you had a diagnosis with a specific mental health condition and have tried other treatment options without success. In other jurisdictions, like in California, the requirements are not so high. As long as you kind of meet the requirements of having some sort of adjustment disorder, or just going through a hard time, or you know, in the modern language that the New York Times is promoting right now, the feeling of languishing and the pandemic that would be sufficient need. As long as you don’t demonstrate other abuse potentials, or have a history of schizophrenia or uncontrolled high blood pressure, or obviously if you’re not pregnant or nursing, by and large as long as you meet those basic requirements you would be approved for treatments. And so that’s what we’d do, we’d screen you and then we would develop a treatment program for you. Typically with depression, it would be what we call four to six ketamine exploratory sessions, which means you’d come in, you would be provided with ketamine, which in most places we use intramuscular injections, but in other locations that we use something with lozenges and depending on the regulatory guidance. You have the experience for about 45 minutes to an hour and a half, when you’re really in the psychedelic experience, following which you have an opportunity to speak with a therapist and really start to decompress and talk about what happened during the psychedelic experience. You do that twice over the course of a couple of days and after each two ketamine exploratory sessions, you do an integration session which is no drug involved, no ketamine, purely cognitive behavioral therapy taking the openness and awareness that you experienced from the ketamine and truly trying to turn it into behavioral change, attitude change, mindset change and that’s what a typical experience looks like. We’re with you the entire way, there’s a therapist present during your experience and afterward. It’s really designed to be very positive, even though I don’t like the term: “spa-like experience.” It really is not medicine as we know it where the doctor’s in a rush and you know, it’s going to throw you the prescription and get you out the door as fast as possible. That’s not how we operate.
Lance Chung: In terms of the experience of the individual that’s taking the ketamine, I understand the experiences can vary and can be quite diverse, but if there’s an overarching, description of what an individual goes through or experiences after they’ve taken it, is there a kind of one way to kind of broadly describe that experience?
Ronan Levy: No, it’s really challenging because everyone’s journey is unique. Some people just feel better and can’t point to any aspect of the experience. There was a reporter who came through our New York location who reported that following her psychedelic experience she found the profound in everyday life. She started looking at her finger and appreciating how amazing the human body is. As weird as that may sound to some people when you start to think about it when you’re deeply engaged in something and find a lot of meaning in it then all of those negative thoughts that we’re prone to have can’t really infiltrate. I think everyone knows the experience of just being in the zone of being so engrossed in something and it enables people sometimes to tap into that feeling on a much easier basis, as opposed to being distracted by modern life. Other people report going back to a traumatic experience when they were a child that they realized they’ve carried through and are able to say goodbye to it and let it go. So it’s really all over the place, but in terms of what the experience is like, it ranges from kind of just being like an out of body experience, kind of like a dreamlike setting to being very much like you to imagine psilocybin or LSD, which is very colorful, a lot of visuals and an unexpected feeling. People often have an experience of synesthesia, which is we have music and eyeshades on and when they’re listening to the music, the music just means more to them, or they understand it on a more intimate basis.
Lance Chung: There is a large dialogue around mental wellness that’s associated with psychedelics, but wellness is, or can be a bit of a catchall term that is used in a lot of different ways. What does wellness mean to you and how do you utilize it in a way where science is used to back up your definition and to get away from some of the misinformation that might be associated with psychedelics and I guess in a general sense that the quackery around wellness marketing too?
Ronan Levy: It is a challenge from our perspective, and we’ve published a white paper on our first cohort of patients. To us, we’re looking at two factors, which are the subjective and objective aspects of wellness. The subjective aspects are: do people report feeling good, feeling happy, feeling motivated, feeling inspired? That’s definitely the softer side of things that can definitely be leveraged by the less legitimate players in terms of promoting wellness and all that kind of stuff. But we’re also focused on finding those objective data and so as people come through our treatment programs all along the way, they’re completing validated questionnaires around mental health, like the GAD-7 and the PHQ-9, which are the metrics against which people are determined as to whether they are considered clinically depressed or clinically anxious or not. And what we see and the metric we work against is we want to make sure that those depression scores or that anxiety or trauma scores continue to trend downward and that’s really the metric we’re focused on. It’s not just the subjective feelings of wellness, which we think are important, it’s also showing objective criteria that people’s mental health has approved against an objective standard.
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Lance Chung: You mentioned at one point in the interview talking about a cure to certain mental illnesses and on the site I think it says somewhere, “Studies show that psychedelic-assisted therapies have the potential to treat possibly cure mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders.” I think cure is an interesting word here. So how do you define your and our mental illnesses? Are they curable or are they something that we treat over time? How do you define that?
Ronan Levy: I don’t have an answer to the second part of that question; are they curable or just something that we treat over time? The use of the word cure specifically, you know, we’re very conscious about trying to make grandiose claims that aren’t validated by the other science that’s out there and so that particular word is actually taken from the MAPS study—the phase three, that was just published—when they actually use the word cure. Now, is it a total cure? It’s a little bit hard to say, cause if you have an infection and you take an antibiotic, and it removes the infection, then you’re cured and if there’s no recurrence, then you know, I’d say it’s an effective cure. With what we’re talking about in the results of this particular study, they use cure to refer to the fact that the person no longer qualified as having PTSD. Now, that’s only over a given timeframe that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the lifetime of the patient, but it does mean that following the treatments and for a certain period thereafter, they no longer met the objective criteria of what it means to have PTSD. With mental health, it’s complex though right? Which is like you could potentially get over the depression that you’ve been struggling with because I don’t know, let’s use an example that your parents got divorced and it’s something that you’ve been holding onto and you’re feeling great for six months and then a parent dies or you lose a friend or a relationship breaks up, or you lose your job. This can trigger a whole new experience with depression or drive you into clinical depression as well. Is it related to the first experience with depression or not? It’s almost impossible to say, and it’s just not the nature of life that you don’t have traumatic experiences or challenging experiences. So, even if a person could be cured, even if we could do that, it’s very likely they’re going to experience it again at some point, potentially totally unrelated and that’s okay. I mean, that’s just part of life and I think that’s one of the powerful things about psychedelics is it’s really about a holistic experience. It’s really about focusing on treating what’s wrong now, getting people on the road to wellness and personal growth, and supporting them on that journey which as everyone knows, life has ebbs and flows, and you have periods of being up and periods of being down and just helping people navigate that as they come I think is a much more constructive, meaningful integrative medicine focused basis with psychedelics.
Lance Chung: Now, from your point of view, what would you say is the most exciting research or the research that has you the most excited that’s coming out right now or has come out recently?
Ronan Levy: It’s the MDMA assisted therapy study, a phase three clinical trial that was just completed by MAPS. It was their first phase three trial and I just mentioned that 70 percent of the participants who on average had chronic severe PTSD for 14 years, or quote-on-quote cured of PTSD, at least for a period of time following treatment. You can’t help but get excited about this kind of stuff because up until this point, the standard of care was really about a 30 percent improvement in symptoms. Could we make you 30 percent better? Whereas here we’re talking about 70percent of people being cured. The interesting thing is a lot of the evidence around suicide and assisted therapy, not only shows it to be very effective. There is one study out of NYU that suggested a single psilocybin-assisted therapy session could provide antidepressant effects for five years or more. Other studies, one in particular, have found when looking at tobacco use disorder or smoking addiction that something like 80 percent of participants reported a significant decline in their consumption of tobacco, which was the statistically meaningful endpoint of the addiction study, but something like 75 or 85 percent of them reported that that experience with psilocybin was one of the most meaningful experiences of their lives—up there with the birth of a child or their wedding or something along those lines. So what we’re seeing is not only does it sort of deal with like neurochemistry, it just reframes people’s attitudes towards life and what’s important. So it’s this really nice blend between objective hard science and the more intangible subjective science of psychology, both working in conjunction to lead to these really exciting outcomes.
Lance Chung: Now what would you say are some of the bigger misconceptions around the industry and psychedelics in general and what are the bigger hurdles that the industry needs to overcome in order to make progress?
Ronan Levy: A couple of misconceptions, first most people, at least when they look at it from an investment perspective, immediately say well what’s the use of psilocybin relative to cannabis and the illicit market? And they try to measure the market according to that size, which is not appropriate. As I mentioned before, we’re talking about true mental health treatments that are validated by objective data displacing the existing mental health market, which in the U.S. is estimated to be about $250 billion. So the analogies to cannabis should be dispelled. There are some instructive things to take from the emergence of the cannabis industry but trying to compare them apples to apples and market size is not one of them. The second thing I think that needs to be displaced is just the things we learned in high school about the risks around psychedelics and psychedelic therapies. We’re fortunate though that the evidence is so persuasive. I like to say that stigma can survive in the face of data and so as more and more data comes out it’s just more persuasive data than we see with cannabis because this has been done in FDA-controlled trials, they’re just more rigorous studies than you get in a typical academic study. So those are the two biggest things, but I think they’ll change quickly.
Lance Chung: There’s a little bit of a glamorization around psychedelics and micro-dosing, whether that’s in Hollywood or in a tech start-up circles and, you know, maybe anecdotal evidence that talks a lot about becoming more creative or productive. Do things like that help or hinder the progress of the industry and the language and the conversations and the dialogue that we’re having around that?
Ronan Levy: That’s a good question. The evidence around micro-dosing isn’t there yet. Unlike the macro-dosing, the large doses supported by a therapist, the evidence is quite persuasive around micro-dosing, it’s very anecdotal. In fact, the studies that come out suggest that dosing works no better than placebo, which I don’t think is necessarily a terrible outcome, because if people think they’re getting better then they often get better, that’s the nature of the placebo effect. So when I think about it from an impact perspective, I still think it’s positive that people are reporting benefits from micro-dosing by and large. I mean, again, there’s not, there’s also not the evidence around whether long-term micro-dosing creates any other kind of risks so that’s one thing that people should be sensitive to. Where things stand right now, I think it’s all positive. I think more people reporting having a positive experience with psychedelics and using them constructively and it’s enhancing the quality of their lives in many ways, I think that’s good. I think where it becomes bad is what we saw happening with CBD as a product where CBD, I used to describe it as the new Frank’s Red Hot because people were putting that in everything. I saw clothing being manufactured with CBD infused in it and at a certain point it kind of jumps the shark, right? We’re not there yet and I think the psychedelics industry is approaching this a little bit more thoughtfully, but it could turn that way. You know, going back to your last question, one of the misconceptions is the power of micro-dosing. It’s just the evidence isn’t there. I’m not going to say it doesn’t work, but the anecdotal reports and what objective data does exist, don’t line up at least yet.
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Lance Chung: As a way to kind to just summarize a lot of the things that we’ve discussed, what would you say are maybe like the top three things that people should know to open their minds to the industry and psychedelics in general? People who have a lot of questions, who are very hesitant, who don’t know very much like me. The top three if you had to name them, what would they be?
Ronan Levy: First of all, psychedelic-assisted therapies are shown to be extremely effective. And psychedelics as a class of drugs are actually by and large, quite safe. And thirdly, I think this is going to become a very significant industry. A very, very massive industry that will displace many current approaches to mental health and wellbeing. It’s a great opportunity if you’re looking for more information, there’s a number of wonderful studies that have come out and so I’d certainly point you to the recent MAPS study, looking at MDMA for the treatment of PTSD. Professor David Nutt, who’s a researcher at Imperial College and used to actually be the Director of the UK’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, wrote the seminal paper on the relative harm of drugs and it looked at both enlisted and certain listed drugs, and they found that psilocybin and LSD, MDMA and ketamine were amongst the lowest harm profiles. So that’s a great study to look at. If you just Google “Professor David Nutt harm of drugs,” you’ll see the study that came out in The Economist and elsewhere that’s a great place to look to try and understand. At the end of the day, it’s really easy to find some of the objective data that’s out there with a few simple Google searches. There are resources on our website which is fieldtriphealth.com, and then speak to the physicians and the therapists working in the industry, and then certainly we’re happy to connect you with people to get an understanding of what exactly is happening.
Lance Chung: Now we have our podcast that focuses on mission-driven companies and companies and leaders that make their decisions or dictate their decisions by their values and their purpose. So what would you say is your mission at the end of the day as a company and as an individual?
Ronan Levy: That’s something that we’re continuing to refine and revise as we continue to grow and understand how we work as a company, but right now our mission is to bring the world to life through psychedelics and psychedelic-assisted therapies, which we haven’t talked about this very much, but beyond just the capacity of psychedelics to treat these mental health conditions, there’s a lot of pro-social side effects that go along with psychedelic therapies: reports of increased creativity, and while we don’t see that in micro-dosing, per se, we do definitely that when people do large therapeutic doses increases in empathy; increases in openness to other people’s viewpoints, which is probably something we need a lot more in this world right now; increased regard for the planet; all of these really wonderful characteristics that I think everyone would say would be good if we had more of. So psychedelics have the potential to not only treat the sick, they actually have the potential to better the well. If we all kind of lift ourselves up from the people who are doing the best to the people who are doing worse, we’re all going to benefit from it. So it’s really nice that it’s a medicine that can be applicable to everybody. My personal mission and what’s interesting to me is less about psychedelics and more about what psychedelics opens people up to. I think it’s a springboard to people getting more in touch with their emotions, understanding who they are, what motivates them, what their triggers are. All this kind of stuff I think is going to do a lot for addressing a lot of the ails in the world. So people can come to whatever they’re doing really grounded in confidence, in a sense of self-worth and self-love. You don’t need psychedelics to do that, there are a number of modalities to get there, psychedelics, I think are just an amazing springboard because I think they’re going to open up a lot of conversations. I use the archetype of a man in the Midwest U.S. who would probably never think about going to talk to a therapist about his feelings, but maybe inclined to say, “Yeah, I’d give psychedelics a try.” I firmly believe that as soon as you try psychedelics, it’s going to touch you to some degree. Even if it only moves you incrementally, that’s a good start, and the rest can kind of take place from there. So my personal mission is to help people tap into that and start to do the work that helps them have a better life because they understand what’s inside them and then what they’re passionate about and what they want to let go of, and then give them the capacity to make really informed choices from the best version of themselves, as opposed to the ones acting out of fear or anxiety or depression or anything along those lines.
Lance Chung: Well, that’s a great way to end our chat and I’ve learned a lot so thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us, it’s been really interesting. I hope to chat again soon, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the company grows.
Ronan Levy: If anyone’s interested in following us, you know, you can follow us on socials @fieldtriphealth. We are currently listed on the CSE: FTRP or the OTC: FTRPF and we’re actively looking towards uplifting to more senior exchanges and possible listings in the U.S. as well. So, lots of exciting stuff on the horizon for Field Trip, for anyone who’s interested in it from an investing perspective.
Lance Chung: Well, thanks so much Ronan enjoy the rest of your day and we’ll chat soon!
Ronan Levy: Thank you so much for the opportunity, really appreciate it.
Before the pandemic, about one in five experienced some sort of mental health issue. Today, that number is up to one in four according to Mental Health Research Canada, with self-reported levels of anxiety and depression now at their highest. Underscored by science, psychedelics have the potential to have a major impact on mental health disorders, opening the doors to a future of incredible possibilities. Thanks to people like Ronan Levy and his team at Field Trip Health, we’re one step closer to achieving that reality and a healthier, happier future.
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