Across the country, numerous clinical trials unrelated to COVID have been put on hold or delayed as both participants and providers are concerned about the spread of 2019-nCoV and healthcare resources are being devoted to combat the pandemic. Hospitals and clinical trials programs have been disrupted severely and companies have announced halting enrollment in ongoing studies and delaying the launch of new trials.
This slowing of clinical trials has affected psychedelic medicine. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) provided an update stating that participants who were already enrolled in phase 3 clinical trials for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD would continue to receive care from their study therapists, with preparatory and integration sessions conducted virtually.
However, “since MDMA-assisted psychotherapy sessions must take place in person, many experimental sessions have been postponed until further guidance from public health officials…Enrollment of new participants is on hold.” Usona Institute, which is running a phase 2 clinical trial for psilocybin for major depressive disorder, shows the following message on its website, “Due to the uncertainty around COVID-19, some or all sites may not be able to screen or enroll participants in this study for the time being. As a result, you may experience delays in communications from sites.”
The impact of COVID on these clinical trials can possibly cause delays in the path towards FDA approval for both MDMA-assisted psychotherapy and psilocybin. This is highly unfortunate given that recent research had shown promising results and generated momentum for psychedelic medicine as a whole.
However, there may be a silver lining: because of COVID’s severe impact on mental health nationwide, many physicians, innovators, researchers, policymakers, and leaders have acutely realized the severe dearth of mental health services and infrastructure in the US. It is unfortunate it took a pandemic for people to realize the problem, but at least now there is public discourse on the tenuous state of our mental health care system.
We can use these tailwinds to destigmatize and educate others on mental health conditions and the use of psychedelic medicine to treat them. It’s more important than ever to speak up and find support. At Osmind, we are launching an online community today focused on treatment-resistant depression (TRD), related mental health disorders, and FDA-approved psychedelic medicine. Free for everyone, the community connects people who struggle with mental health, medical professionals, scientific researchers, academics, advocates, caregivers, and more.
This first-of-its-kind online community fills a pressing need during COVID-19, which has made mental health services and human-to-human connection even more important. We are offering a free directory of ketamine clinics and the services they offer during the pandemic (e.g. in-person care, telemedicine, e-prescribing). We also bring in special guests who join the community to do Ask-Me-Anything (AMA) events, post content, and answer questions.
We had our first AMA by a psychedelic medicine expert from Stanford University Medical Center. Our AMAs happen every Wednesday with experts in the field. We also provide wikis written by MDs on the Osmind team that provide unbiased, evidence-based information and collaborative wikis collectively written by Community members as people contribute their own valuable experiences and perspectives.
While the pandemic has both short- and long-term implications on our country’s mental health and may slow down medical innovation in the near-term, at least mental health is finally in the spotlight. We hope that this conversation around mental health and psychedelic medicine’s potential to address it will be here to stay.