Science

DARPA attempting to remove hallucinatory "side effects" from psychedelic medicines

DARPA attempting to remove hal...
The program is called Focused Pharma, and explores whether the acute psychoactive effects of drugs like MDMA can be decoupled from the beneficial effects seen in treating conditions such as PTSD
The program is called Focused Pharma, and explores whether the acute psychoactive effects of drugs like MDMA can be decoupled from the beneficial effects seen in treating conditions such as PTSD
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The program is called Focused Pharma, and explores whether the acute psychoactive effects of drugs like MDMA can be decoupled from the beneficial effects seen in treating conditions such as PTSD
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The program is called Focused Pharma, and explores whether the acute psychoactive effects of drugs like MDMA can be decoupled from the beneficial effects seen in treating conditions such as PTSD

A newly announced research program from DARPA is looking to remove those pesky hallucinatory side effects from novel psychedelic medicines such as MDMA and psilocybin. The program is currently calling out for research proposals investigating innovative drug treatments targeting post-traumatic stress disorder and depression that can be administered without the “unpredictable consequences” of current psychedelic medicines.

The program is called Focused Pharma, and DARPA’s program manager Tristan McClure-Begley says the goal is to understand the underlying neurochemical mechanism behind the efficacy of drugs such as MDMA and psilocybin. The end game would be a pill to treat PTSD or depression in military healthcare settings that doesn't require subjects to undergo an acute psychedelic experience.

“Our fundamental hypothesis is that drugs with biased activation of specific signaling pathways downstream of the receptor may be sufficient to induce a therapeutic effect that is uncoupled from deleterious neurological effects,” McClure-Begley explains. “Recent advances in neurotransmitter receptor structure-guided drug design are allowing us to generate the tools we need to test that hypothesis.”

The Focused Pharma announcement is careful to not reference specific compounds, but instead mentions how, “certain Schedule 1 controlled drugs” have displayed promising results treating, “neuropsychiatric conditions such as chronic alcohol dependence, post-traumatic stress, and treatment-resistant depression following only limited doses.” It seems clear DARPA is referring to a growing body of research finding MDMA and psilocybin to be impressively effective in treating a number of mental health conditions.

DARPA’s plan is to institute several research projects to find out if the beneficial mental health improvements found in prior studies can be decoupled from the acute hallucinatory effects of these drugs. Successful research projects will get four years to develop a novel drug ready to apply for an Investigation New Drug application through the FDA and progress into human clinical trials.

Underlying the entire Focused Pharma project is a suggestion that the supposed “deleterious neurological effects” of psychedelic agents such as psilocybin and MDMA, are fundamentally unrelated to the efficacy of the drugs. A great deal of research into these substances is suggesting the acute phenomenological experience, often lasting between four and eight hours, is vital to the lasting beneficial effect.

DARPA points to the way these psychedelic drugs influence highly specific serotonin receptors as a roadmap into more accurately engaging targeted neurotransmitters to achieve the same beneficial effects treating conditions such as PTSD, without an overwhelmingly acute psychoactive experience. However, what DARPA may label as “deleterious neurological” side effects, could be what fundamentally make these new psychedelic medicines work.

Source: DARPA

8 comments
Astro Wagon
WHY??? Why would you want to remove the hallucinations?
Stephen Malinowski
See "REBUS and the Anarchic Brain: Toward a Unified Model of the Brain Action of Psychedelics" by R. L. Carhart-Harris and K. J. Friston for a discussion of why DARPA's goal may be impossible to attain. Here's the paper ... http://www.musanim.com/pdf/carhart-harris2019.pdf ... and here's a review ... https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/09/10/ssc-journal-club-relaxed-beliefs-under-psychedelics-and-the-anarchic-brain/
Adrienne Floreen
This is a very weird article. The people studying psychedelics at DARPA obviously do not understand why psychedelics work. I suggest they watch my video called "Tripping for Muggles: Magic Mushrooms Explained by Adrienne Floreen." Here is a link: https://youtu.be/0bwbzcGgOGM
Edward Vix
Astro, assuming you weren't being ironic, maybe because hallucinations can be frightening and some people have terrible reactions?
Paul Muad'Dib
Hallucinations? They must be planning to use huge doses.
lucius
Fortunately, it is fairly simple to grow your own psilocybin mushrooms naturally, so that you are able to derive ALL their benefits while knowing that they haven't been altered or adulterated by government institutions like DARPA (which, by the way, is an agency of the United States Department of Defense who are responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the military). It is beyond my comprehension why anyone would want to ingest a pharmaceutical that was synthesized by DARPA. I used home-grown psilocybin mushrooms when I was in my 20s, and they are the only consciousness-altering botanical that I would use again, now that I am a man in my 60s.
Phelanka
Maybe they're talking about getting rid of visual or auditory hallucinations but retaining the ego-disintegration? I don't know. I'm confused.
Dom Maalouf
It's called micro dosing. You get a heightened awareness and perspective without tripping. A lot of very smart people are using micro doses and they promote it as the best nootropic for the brain, Like brain food. Jordan Peterson, Sam Harris, And Tony Robins, Just to name a few.