The global psychedelics market is growing rapidly, and is expected to reach $8 billion by 2029. The market currently consists primarily of pharmaceuticals, but demand—along with a supporting body of science—is growing for natural psychedelics. To provide an update on where the market stands, as well as opportunities and potential pitfalls that the natural products industry needs to be aware of, experts addressed the topic at Naturally Informed’s 2022 educational event Stress & Mental Wellness: Mastering the Market. In the session New Paradigms in Mental Health—The Time of Psychedelics, panelists Elan Sudberg of Alkemist Labs, Rend Al-Mondhiry of Amin Wasserman Talati, and Michael Barr of Nutrasource, shared their insights.

Psychedelics bring on a non-ordinary state of conscience, such as a change in thought, mood, or perception, Barr explained. And organizations including the American Botanical Council (ABC) and American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) have been working to develop standards for the use of psychedelics.

“With the emergence of legal psychedelics being used professionally to address major mental health issues, and research finding significant benefits in that context, it’s crucial that the category be developed with experience and deliberation,” said Sudberg, who serves as the first chair of AHPA's recently formed Psychedelic Plants and Fungi Committee.  

Psychedelics Market Expansion 

In September 2021, the market of the top 10 publicly traded psychedelic companies reached $3.1 billion, Barr noted. And increasingly, healthcare practitioners are supporting the use of psychedelics for treatment.

As WholeFoods Magazine has reported, two thirds (66%) of doctors in a recent survey said they believe psilocybin therapy has potential therapeutic benefit for patients with treatment-resistant depression (TRD). The survey, sponsored by mental health care company Compass Pathways, questioned 259 physicians from the U.S., UK, France, Italy, Denmark, Spain, and the Netherlands. Doctors were asked to share their views on the future of psychiatric therapy and the potential role of psilocybin therapy. This therapy combines psychological support with the pharmacological effects of a synthesized version of psilocybin, a psychoactive substance that is an active ingredient in some mushrooms.

Some U.S. states have already approved psilocybin therapy. Rend reported that Oregon has legalized it for residents over 21, provided they use a licensed facilitator who is trained under a government approved program. 

The Compass Pathways survey revealed that 50% of doctors would prescribe psilocybin therapy if it was approved, while 32% of those surveyed are undecided. In the Naturally Informed session,Barr noted that part of getting more doctors on board is transparency.

“Companies need to prove that their drug does something and it's validated," Barr said. "If you go to doctors and therapists, they need to know where it works and be able to see clinically proven information.” According to Barr, there have been 421 studies performed with the term "psychedelics."

In addition to the growing body of science, Barr said the psychedelics market is growing because businesses see the opportunity to benefit people in need...and to benefit financially. “Public companies and investors in the industry can make a lot of money because they believe [psychedelics] have the potential to help a lot of sick people, who don’t have don’t have good treatment options with current drugs.” 

Despite the rapid growth, Al-Mondhiry, Sudberg, and Barr noted that there are challenges to be navigated. Sudberg cautioned, “There is no regulatory framework allowing analytical labs to provide critically needed quality control services to the quickly growing industry.” 

Al-Mondhiry also noted that there are issues with regulatory rules and marketing strategies. She suggested that some of the marketing tactics used by businesses are dangerous to the overall industry. “You see TV shows where people are doing Ayahuasca Retreats, but what are the credentials of the people running them? Marketing the right way makes it more legitimate and helps get healthcare officials on board. We need to move out of this pop culture movement.” 

That said, many psychedelics have ancient roots and continue to be used as medicine by indigenous cultures. Sudberg stressed the importance of respecting this. “We want to protect their ways of life while also having them help us to use their ingredients respectfully,” he explained. 

Another point to consider:The expense for clinical trials can be costly, as can the practice of psychedelic therapy. “Therapy is a key piece of these drugs being used as treatment, but at what cost?” questioned Barr. “It’s not just you give someone mushrooms and send them on their way. MAPS [Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies] recently suggested that the treatment would cost $7,500 for their use and 90% of that was therapist time.” 

The bottom line: Experts within the natural products industry are working to ensure thatpsychedelics are properly sourced, marketed, and regulated. Following the regulatory rules and providing transparency are keys to success. For more insights, access the full session on demand.

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The next Naturally Informed event will cover more of the latest science and strategy related to the herbal market.Reimagining Botanicals: Mastering the Market, takes place February 8-9, 2023.Registerto attend the event live, or to access the content on demand.WF

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