How Field Trip Health is providing patients with a new approach to mental health care
“I think psychedelics are very quickly going to become a key component in psychiatry and the treatment of mental health conditions across North America and globally”
Now more than ever, healthcare providers across Canada are becoming serious about the world of psychedelic medicine. With a rise in mental health diagnoses such as anxiety and depression(1) being accelerated by the pandemic, more and more researchers and therapists are seeing psychedelics as a promising form of mental health treatment. This is where Field Trip Health comes into play, with eight locations operating worldwide, including one in Toronto, with many more slated to open later this year.
For those who have only ever known psychedelics as controlled substances in Canada and the United States, Ronan Levy, co-founder and executive chairman of Field Trip Health, believes they can offer a watershed of opportunities and a dash of hope where traditional antidepressants and talk therapy may not have worked in the past. At the clinic, the team provides ketamine-assisted therapy to help anyone from those suffering from depression who haven’t found relief through conventional approaches (such as antidepressants) to those experiencing severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including veterans and sexual trauma survivors.
Ketamine is a Health Canada–approved medicine that has been identified by The World Health Organization as an “essential medicine” for its use in anesthesia. For that reason, people interested in pursuing psychedelic-assisted therapy at Field Trip Health must be referred from another healthcare practitioner. From there, the team at the clinic will help the interested person evaluate if a ketamine-based treatment is an appropriate option. Levy shares, “there’s been an incredible amount of research over the past 20 years or so looking into [psychedelics therapy] as a mental health treatment, so the therapies we are providing are extremely effective, safe and legal.”
Each session lasts between 45 and 90 minutes and takes place in one of their Experience Rooms, with bright open windows and comfortable zero-gravity chairs. Patients are provided doses via intramuscular injection or sublingual lozenge, given a sleeping eye mask and noise-cancelling headphones, and asked to focus on or revisit past experiences that may be troubling them or perhaps revise the world through the lens they may not have experienced before.
Levy notes that for many patients who have come through the doors of Field Trip Health, it has given them “an incredible capacity to start to make changes, often achieving more in a single session than they achieve in years and years in conventional therapy.” An Introductory session at Field Trip Health costs $750, which covers the initial consultations with Field Trip Health’s physicians, initial conversations with their therapeutic team, the first ketamine exploratory session and a 30-minute integration therapy session. Each subsequent ketamine session is $750, and integration sessions are $250. During the integration sessions, patients can speak with their therapist about what came up during their ketamine session and safely explore past experiences or trauma. While these therapies are not currently covered under OHIP, Field Trip Health notes that many benefit plans have started providing their partners with coverage for psychedelic therapy.
While there is certainly still a significant degree of stigma that exists around psychedelic drugs and their use in the mental health world, Levy and the Field Trip Health team are firm believers that stigma doesn’t survive in the face of data and science. “There is a significant education effort, but many psychiatrists, therapists and scientists are becoming quite vocal about the fact that the evidence for these therapies is incredibly profound in terms of both safety and efficacy,” Levy shares. One of the things they are currently focusing on is the impact of psychedelic therapies on treatment-resistant depression. Levy notes that Field Trip Health has published a white paper examining how patients with treatment-resistant depression and anxiety responded overall to the treatment. They also expect to commence Phase 1 clinical trials early next year on a novel synthetic psychedelic known as FT-104, developed by their Chief Science Officer, Dr. Nathan Bryson, a graduate of MIT.
Levy shares, “Since inception, our philosophy at Field Trip has been that any psychedelics company needs to focus on both the development of psychedelic medicines and the delivery of psychedelic therapies. We want to continue to build that footprint, as much as possible, as quickly as possible, because I think psychedelics are very quickly going to become a key component in psychiatry and the treatment of mental health conditions across North America and globally.”
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