I can’t remember what company it was, maybe MindMed, but one of their early pitch decks had a page titled ‘Suicide Opportunity’. Yesterday I wrote an article outlining how Seelos Therapeutics was targetting suicide with ketamine-based treatments and it reminded me for a moment of that pitch deck. To note, Seelos didn’t word it in a brash way like the other deck did. I remember that first deck rubbing me the wrong way when I saw it. It just came off as cold.
I was at a Cambridge Investor psychedelics conference back in 2019 and someone asked the question about capitalism potentially ruining psychedelics and the thousand-year history behind them. Fittingly, it was directed to someone from Compass Pathways, who famously changed from a non-profit to a public company only after reaping the benefits of being a non-profit, therefore building value with questionable intentions. His answer was pretty good though, and it’s the message of this article.
Psychedelics have been used for spiritual growth for thousands of years in Africa, South America, North America, Asia, and nearly everywhere in-between. These psychedelics don’t exist in a vacuum either, they have traditions and rituals that compliment them as well. When I was living in Thailand with a group of Western shamans and yogis ayahuasca was used sometimes casually and the results were a bit messy, not ideal. This kind of DIY psychedelic drug use is how a lot of people, especially in today’s world initial access these substances. My first mushroom trip was at 18 and it was just me and a couple of my college buddies listening to old Mr. Oizo records and staring at Salvador Dali paintings. It was cool, but it’s not really using the full potential of the drug.
So back to that question about capitalism, and ‘suicide opportunities’ and that question posed to Compass Pathways. No matter what happens in the businesses world, young DIY explorers are still going to find and use the drugs, and while they may not know of any of the thousand-year traditions, their brains are likely being rewired in some way. I know after about 15-20 mushroom trips from the age of 18-21 mine definitely were. That’s the easy and obvious outlook, but I would argue the more important question to chew on is, what’s the alternative?
Companies like MindMed, Compass Pathways, Cybin, Atai, etc. who collectively have raised close to a billion dollars already on the backs of people thinking these therapies could work. Could this have happened even 10 years ago? It seems unlikely. 10 years ago that capital would have likely been put towards anti-depressants and opioids, and we are seeing in real-time what decades of funding those types of companies can do to a society. But times are changing, In Michael Pollan’s book ‘How To Change Your Mind’ he tells the story of how he himself first really got into psychedelics recently while in his late 50’s.
“I’ve begun to wonder if perhaps these remarkable molecules might be wasted on the young, that they may have more to offer us later in life, after the cement of our mental habits and everyday behaviors has set. Carl Jung once wrote that it is not the young but people in middle age who need to have an “experience of the numinous” to help them negotiate the second half of their lives.” ―
Throughout most of his life, he was fed a stream of propaganda about people melting their brains on LSD and jumping out of windows. Pollan, a curious author in his own right was surprised at the benefit he felt even from his first mushroom trip.
More and more studies are being released weekly showing the upside of psychedelics in dealing with addiction, depression, PTSD, anxiety, the list goes on. The reason these psychedelics companies are so valuable is not only because of the hope that will work on a large scale, but also, for the fear that if we keep doing what we are doing we are going to continue to get the same results. Suicide rates climbing, opioid addiction climbing, prescription meds climbing, these are costly to our financial system, thus, psychedelics offer somewhat of a fork in the road, ie,’ a suicide opportunity.’
In order to get psychedelics to the next stage where they are safer and more readily available to those who need them, mass amounts of research need to be done and are being done. But it’s not cheap. A Phase 3 clinical trial can cost upwards of $40M dollars, and we are going to need several trials on several drug candidates to find the best possible solutions. This is going to be a multi-billion dollar undertaking that would be next to impossible to fund without the use of the public markets. MAPS founder Rick Doblin said they have had internal discussions about maybe going public because they are having a difficult time raising more than a few million dollars, while the ones in the public market are pulling in upwards of $90 million CAD alone on private placements, these are cannabis sector Bahama hedge fund-type figures.
This was Compass’s message at the investor conference if we don’t raise this capital and do these tests, who is going to do it? Those highly critical of capitalism know that money, and those behind the money are powerful. They know that politicians and lobbyists alike are driven by money. Money is how you get the attention of those who write the laws and hold the keys to power. Is it a shitty deal and a bad setup?
Yes, most of the time, but it is the reality, and it’s not changing anytime soon. Hell, if anything is going to make it change on a large scale it probably is psychedelics, but it’s going to take mass adoption which will require drastic changes in drug laws. I get it, most of these companies are out to make a buck, I mean they have to stay afloat, but yes, some will take greedy profits and run away buying Lambos and Hollywood mansions just like we saw in the cannabis industry. A few bad apples will likely make asses of themselves on the backs of selling the suicide opportunity.