The potential of psychedelic use for mental health treatment has steadily become a hot topic, from shows like Nine Perfect Strangers, which fully centers on psilocybin treatment as mental health therapy, to the very real, progressive legislation hitting areas across the United States, Canada and beyond, decriminalizing psychedelics and researching their potential.
In this vein, a new Canadian startup Field Trip has emerged to forge their own path in the realm of psychedelic therapy, where they currently administer ketamine treatments along with traditional therapy to help treat issues like PTSD, depression and more.
“Psychedelic-enhanced psychotherapy is gaining traction in response to clinical research and academic studies showing compelling evidence in addressing the growing mental health crisis globally,” the Field Trip website notes.
Ketamine is legal if prescribed by a doctor, though Field Trip would be open to administer psilocybin and MDMA treatments, should legislation change. While both are currently considered schedule 1 drugs, with “no medical value and a high potential for abuse,” there is mounting evidence that psychedelics could lead to revolutionary treatments and breakthroughs among patients who aren’t seeing results with those treatments currently available.
According to Vox, Field Trip currently offers ketamine treatments at six clinics in major U.S. cities, though it plans to build 75 centers over the next three years. The therapy sessions—which Field Trips calls “psychedelic exploration sessions”—involves a patient receiving one or two shots of ketamine into their arm, initiating a 45- to 90-minute hallucingenic journey designed to help people disconnect from their “normal” selves.
Patients cover their eyes and listen to music as the drug sets in, all the while being coached by a therapist. The next day, patients have a follow-up appointment called an “integration session” meant to reflect on the treatment.
“Whatever comes up in your session—new insights, perspectives — that can be fleeting if you don’t work to integrate that into your life,” Emily Hackenburg, Field Trip’s clinical director, told Vox. “Regardless of what psychedelic you’re using, preparation, journey, integration, that’s going to be the same.”
The startup says most patients undergo the ketamine program four to six times. The initial treatment includes a medical screening, exploration session and an integration session; it costs $750, and because ketamine isn’t specifically approved for mental health applications by the FDA, the medication typically isn’t covered by insurance. Though, patients can sometimes get aspects of the therapy reimbursed.
Despite the expenses, Field Trip is growing quickly, planning to offer ketamine treatments at 20 clinics in the U.S. by early next year, essentially setting itself up to be a huge player in an industry that, for the most part, doesn’t yet exist.
The future of psychedelics is also uncertain overall. While the U.S. government has recently begun to support and review research surrounding the potential of psychedelic medicine, there’s no telling if psychedelic drugs will follow cannabis, becoming widely decriminalized and legalized, or if the current standards will remain in place.
Though, just in the past several years, the United States has seen a number of significant reforms across the country: Seattle just became the largest city in the country to decriminalize a range of psychedelics—including psilocybin mushrooms, ibogaine, ayahuasca and non-peyote-derived mescaline.
The Washington city joined Denver, which became the first city to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms in 2019, along with Oakland and Santa Cruz, California; Washington DC and Somerville and Cambridge, Massachusetts; and the entire state of Oregon, which is the first state to decriminalize psilocybin and legalize it for therapeutic use.
One Field Trip patient, Chase Chewning, opened up about his two ketamine sessions, saying that he was “profoundly closer” to finding resolution with his PTSD and working toward better mental health, following his experiences at a Los Angeles clinic.“This is really the most promising development in mental health care to come along, literally, in many decades. And that’s one reason why you don’t want a few companies controlling it,” Mason Marks, a project lead at Harvard Law’s Petrie-Flom Center who focuses on psychedelics regulation, told Vox.