The start-up behind a magic mushroom nose spray for psychedelic microdosing
Predicting a wave of psychedelic legalization over the coming decade, Oregon-based start-up Silo Wellness has reportedly developed a magic mushroom nasal spray focused on delivering exact, controlled psychedelic microdoses via an easy inhaler. New Atlas contacted Silo Wellness founder and CEO Mike Arnold to learn more about how this bold product actually works.
Grassroots psychedelic activism
Alongside the rapidly progressing psychedelic science movement, with researchers rigorously exploring the medical and therapeutic uses of previously taboo psychoactive compounds, is a growing grassroots movement to decriminalize some of these substances. Across 2019 a number of different local jurisdictions in the United States began the first stages of decriminalizing psychedelic substances.
The movement ostensibly started with the passing of a ballot initiative in the City and County of Denver back in March. The publicly voted initiative essentially decriminalized the personal use and possession of magic mushrooms. Following that landmark moment, a number of other cities in the country have pushed forward similar measures.
The long game here is looking toward the 2020 US elections and getting a variety of measures on state ballots. There is debate among activists, however, over how broad a push there should be for recreational legalization. A proposed 2020 ballot measure filed in California is proposing full retail legalization of psilocybin magic mushrooms, while the current measure proposed in Oregon is not looking at commercial sales but instead focusing on legalizing therapeutic uses in licensed facilities.
Motivated by the explosive growth of business in the cannabis industry, as recreational legalization spreads across America, some entrepreneurs are looking at psilocybin as the next prospective drug to hit the broader market. One Denver-based company called Strava, for example, has already begun developing tea and coffee products infused with microdoses of psilocybin.
These products may not be legal right now, but many are preparing for legalization, readying commercial products to serve the whims of every kind of recreational consumer.
Why develop a magic mushroom nasal spray?
Silo Wellness is one of those aforementioned entrepreneurial start-ups, and it is working to develop a magic mushroom-based nasal spray. The idea behind the product is to offer people a way into the psychedelic experience using a controlled delivery device that can offer consistent regulated microdoses.
“We solved the age-old problem with plant- and fungus-based medicine: How do you know how much is a dose?” explains Michael Hartman, an experienced pharma product developer working with Silo Wellness. “How do you avoid taking too much, like the cannabis edibles dilemma? We also managed to solve one of the common complaints of some mushroom users: taste and upset stomach.”
The CEO and founder of Silo Wellness is former criminal attorney Mike Arnold, who left his law industry job to start a marijuana growing company back in 2016. After a life-changing magic mushroom experience in 2018, Arnold saw a hurdle in the movement to bring psychedelics into the mainstream. His first magic mushroom experience was fortunately one guided by a knowledgeable physician, who could offer a controlled dose, but what if that guided experience wasn’t available to someone?
Arnold saw the solution to the problem as a controlled nasal spray that administered a metered, fast-acting dose of magic mushrooms in a way that could ease less experienced individuals into the psychedelic experience.
The nasal spray being developed is not pure psilocybin, but instead, Arnold tells New Atlas is a, “full myco-spectrum extract of Jamaican magic mushrooms in an aqueous solution.”
The two factors the company is focusing its current research on are uptake speed and bioavailability. Arnold suggests the benefits of dosing through a nasal spray are a faster onset, reducing the delay in effect and decreasing the risk of consuming too much, and a reduction in some of the unpleasant nauseous effects of digesting mushrooms in the gut.
“We believe that the nasal track has greater bioavailability and faster uptake speed than going through the gut,” Arnold tells New Atlas. “Once the product is more widely available to the public, specific dosing will be disclosed; but, currently, one dose in each nostril has the biomass equivalent of no more than 0.1 grams. We are targeting a sub-psychedelic dose right now with a small psychedelic dose anticipated soon.”
The product is currently being developed in Jamaica, one of the only countries in the world where magic mushrooms are completely legal. Arnold suggests dose-ranging studies are underway in the island nation, and the company is initially focusing on a producing a product aimed at microdose-levels of magic mushrooms.
Of course, what constitutes a microdose in the world of psychedelic compounds?
What is a microdose?
The science is certainly still out over whether psychedelic microdosing confers real benefits or whether the technique is a glorified placebo, akin to psychedelic homeopathy. As scientists work to clinically verify the effects, and safety, of sustained tiny psychedelic drug doses, there is debate over how much of a dose actually constitutes a microdose.
Many would argue one has taken too much of a substance if they are actively feeling acute effects, and many microdosers suggest regular doses must be sub-perceptual. This means the subtle benefits of microdosing, relating to improved mood, energy or creativity, arise slowly over time.
Mike Arnold suggests the nasal spray his company is developing will center around microdoses, but not sub-perceptual microdoses. So the idea is you will feel some rapid acute effects from one or two sprays. He calls the dose "sub-psychedelic."
“As a company, we do not pigeonhole microdosing into sub-perceptual levels,” Arnold tells New Atlas. “Many of us in the company have experimented personally with various levels of microdosing from sub-perceptual levels on up. It is very common anecdotally and it is within my own personal experience that a 0.1 gram on up to 0.25 gram level of biomass microdosing will give you various positive perceivable effects that is readily within grasp of personal research simply by trying microdosing at various sub-psychedelic levels.”
Silo Wellness is one of several ambitious startups looking ahead to a future of legalized recreational psychedelics. But, as evidenced by the variety of ballot initiatives coming up in 2020, there is little agreement in the psychedelic community over whether the movement should push for broad legalization, or a more limited decriminalization.
Legalization VS Decriminalization
Michael Pollan, author of the bestselling psychedelic science book How To Change Your Mind, summed up these divisions in an influential New York Times op-ed earlier in 2019 titled “Not So Fast on Psychedelic Mushrooms”.
Pollan’s general argument is that while psilocybin seems to be traveling a similar path to legalization as cannabis traversed, we should be clear in understanding they are two very different substances. He supports decriminalization of some psychedelic drugs, and enthusiastically promotes the growing medical and therapeutic uses being researched, but is concerned recreational legalization of psychedelics could be dangerous to unleash into a culture dominated by capitalist sentiment.
“I see cannabis being promoted and pushed to people, as capitalism will do,” Pollan said at an event in Melbourne in July. “When I come home from this trip on Monday and I cross through Bay Ridge from the airport to Berkeley, I’ll see three or four billboards for companies that can deliver cannabis to my home in two hours, and I just don’t think we know enough to legalize these [psychedelic] drugs.”
“We should take lessons from cultures that have been using psychedelics for thousands of years,” he said in July. “They’re always used in a very careful cultural container. They’re never used casually, people don’t take them alone, there’s always an elder involved and there’s always an intention involved … We haven’t devised that proper container and I think we need to do that before we legalize it.”
Mike Arnold on the other hand, is incredibly enthusiastic about making psychedelics as widely available as possible. He says legalization is inevitable, suggesting his dose-controlled nasal spray actually offers a technology that makes the broad legal roll-out of magic mushrooms much safer. He claims his product will allow new users to cautiously experiment with metered doses, allowing novice psychedelic users a way into the psychedelic experience without jumping into extreme “trip” sessions.
“Oregon is on track to pass its psilocybin initiative petition in the fall of 2020,” Arnold says. “We expect it to pass given it was polling at 64% before mainstream media really picked up on the psychedelic medicine movement. Legalization is inevitable. We expect the states to fall like dominoes thereafter, much like cannabis but with a much more compressed timeline. The first state to decriminalize cannabis was Oregon's "less than an ounce” law back in the 1970s, yet it took another 20 years to have California pass medical. Now within a year of Denver decriminalizing we can expect the first state to go legal. That timeline is mind-blowing.”
Scientific research with therapeutic outcomes is certainly progressing fast, and both psilocybin and MDMA have been awarded Breakthrough Therapy status from the FDA, but it is clear segments of the general public are becoming impatient with the slow pace of medical trials. It is possible by 2025 both psilocybin and MDMA could be FDA-approved medicines, available in clinical environments for a variety of conditions. But separate to those pathways, magic mushrooms are particularly being pushed for more general legalization through local initiatives. However the next few years play out, there seems to be several start-ups ready to jump into the market with psychedelic products as soon as they become legal.
“This isn’t a ‘plan’ to develop a product or a ‘plan’ to open a facility,” explains Michael Hartman, who is working on the aerosol technology Silo Wellness is using. “We have real proof of concept and continued research and development underway — not just an idea. We have developed this and have already received user testimonials. We have been in the space for over a year planning this. The future is now and we are ready.”
Source: Silo Wellness