“The belief that the patient is in possession of all their own answers is one I stand by,” Says Timothy Ko on Psychedelics for Addiction Treatment

psychedelics for addiction
Entheon Biomedical CEO Timothy Ko
Treatment for substance abuse issues is one of the areas where psychedelic-assisted therapies is showing highly promising advances. Entheon Biomedical CEO Timothy Ko shared his thoughts on how this treatment sector is progressing.

 

PsyTech: How did you get interested in the psychedelics space?

Timothy: During my teenage years, I did extensive independent research, which is a nice way of saying I ate magic mushrooms like a lot people that age. I found myself fascinated by non-ordinary states of mind and the novelty of thought provided by the experiences. At that time, it was little more than just that, fascination and novelty. As life progressed and I grew older, I found that revisiting that class of molecules gave me rare moments of introspection, clarity, and perception of life that was restorative. I credit psychedelics with providing me a life preserver about seven years ago when I reached a therapeutic block and found myself in a very dark place. Also, seeing the limitations of conventional treatment in helping my brother as he battled with addiction were enough to inspire me to investigate whether there was potential within psychedelics to help substance abuse disorder sufferers approach their issues from an angle that was being overlooked by conventional medicine.

PsyTech: What is the biggest issue holding the industry back, be it stigma, regulation, politics, etc…?

Timothy: A negative stigma toward psychedelics still exists, which is no surprise. As the classic psychedelics underwent scheduling and effective prohibition in most of the West, very concerted campaigns were executed to strike fear into the public as to the danger and consequences of using these substances. Much of that fear lingers today, but like most fears, irrational or otherwise, we feel the best way forward is through education and facts. That is why Entheon is firmly committed to the scientific process. Further proving out safety and toxicology through preclinical trials and subsequent clinical trials with healthy volunteers and target populations, demonstrating what these molecules are, and how they affect the human body and nervous system. Fortunately, we very much stand on the shoulders of giants.

PsyTech: What’s one fact you want the general public to know about psychedelics?

Timothy: Psychedelics are powerful molecules and plants that must be treated with the utmost respect. They are powerful tools and allies in the right context, with the right intentions, but as we all know – if you don’t respect that which is more powerful than you there can be negative consequences.

Science has advanced our understanding of how psychedelics work and the effect they have on the human body and nervous system, but the psyche is a very complicated place and there is much we still don’t understand. That being said, we are creating a psychedelic-therapeutic model that allows the patient to generate their own answers to their difficulties which have resulted from their own past and experiences. The breakthroughs that psychedelics help facilitate are deeply personal and unique to the patient. The belief that the patient is in possession of all their own answers is one I stand by. Psychedelic therapy, guidance, and integration should be designed to simply tease those answers out and bring them to light in a meaningful way.

PsyTech: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to anyone interested in getting into the psychedelics industry?

Timothy: I would recommend getting firm on what your intentions are and what those intentions are based on. Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy is an emerging industry, it is new, it is hot. There are also many supporting industries and processes cropping up in tandem (e.g., data/analytics, telecare/home medicine, etc.). Good intent will guide you to the right actors, and help you contribute to, or develop, a product/service that is of net-benefit to the people.

PsyTech: What’s the question you get asked the most when someone finds out you’re involved in psychedelics?

Timothy: “Aren’t those illegal?”

PsyTech: What’s some typical pushback you experience as someone involved in this industry, and how do you respond?

Timothy: When speaking to the layperson, the resistance is placed in questions around their safety and characterized in the straw man argument of an aging 60s-era person – who may or may not exist – is permanently lost to the ether, or schizophrenic from too much psychedelic usage. This person, again, may not exist, and if they do, is likely suffering from several co-occurring variables like trauma and lack of access to healthcare, among other things. It is important to denote that in light of fears related to safety, the solutions currently being developed are of a highly medical nature, have gone through rigorous scientific inquiry and investigation phases, and that patient pre-screening and accounting for mental health histories is required before a psychedelic is even considered as a route of treatment.

PsyTech: What are the currently biggest hurdles in the space, and how have hurdles evolved over the past few years?

Timothy: The path to regulatory approval is still a rigorous hurdle, necessarily so. Though sometimes arduous and plodding, it is crucial to ensure that the appropriate protective measures are in place for consumers and practitioners. To the credit of regulatory authorities, they have demonstrated a total willingness to validate and expedite science-backed solutions. The progress that has been made with ketamine, psilocybin, and MDMA are clear indicators of both safety, efficacy, and apparent need. Realistically, the unmet medical needs of the demographics who are underserviced by the conventional approaches motivates regulators to grant breakthrough status to drug candidates that could potentially mitigate the loss of life, human suffering, and drain on society that occurs from having sick people who are not being adequately taken care of or treated.

PsyTech: Where do you see decrim/recreational regulation evolving in the next 12 months, and is that the most effective means of changing public perception of psychedelics?

Timothy: Present day decriminalization movements seem to be gaining traction and I for one am in favor of allowing consenting adults to make choices for themselves, especially as the comparative risk/benefit of psychedelics vs other substances is theoretically far less detrimental to society. If decrim is passed, then the barriers to those seeking to facilitate guided psychedelic use are lowered and you will hopefully see a net positive effect on society. That said, set, setting, guidance, and integration are crucial to not only the safety of the treatment, but also maximizing therapeutic effects. However far legalization or decriminalization movements get, we envision there will be an absolute need for precisely controlled, therapist-guided psychedelic programs that are medically targeted, such as the ones we are developing.

PsyTech: What impact will this year’s election have on the industry?

Timothy: Where does one even begin? With the election being so dynamic and divisive it is hard to get a grip through the noise on what the platforms for candidates are as they apply to psychedelic medicine. Much of the approvals and granting of breakthrough status have come under the current administration so there has been no indicator of cultural resistance, but the reasoning is often suggested that a democratic presidency would be more culturally lenient, and  some of Biden’s platform positions indicate a relaxed attitude to cannabis. Whatever the case may be, the pandemic has highlighted a need for mental health treatments, and there we do require leadership when it comes to the effects of the lockdowns on mental health and substance use.

PsyTech: What was the initial reaction when your friends and family heard you were involved in the psychedelic industry?

Timothy: More enthusiastic than I’d originally expected. Rather than reacting with doubt, they uniformly saw the need, as they were aware of the limitations of what’s currently on offer. Not many people I’ve met have been more than two degrees removed from addiction or mental illness, and more people than not have lost someone to either or both. People are hungry for solutions to the growing mental health and addiction crises. Psychedelic-assisted therapy research and practice is demonstrating results and has been for many years; therefore, reasonable people are open minded to the possibility of these once banned substances being used to treat many of the most injurious maladies of our time.

PsyTech is grateful to Timothy Ko and Entheon for their generous sponsorship of our upcoming Summit. To register for the October 27th event, please click the button below.

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