UW-Madison, which studies psychedelic drugs to treat depression and other conditions, is taking another step to embrace the emerging topic of psychoactive medicine by launching a Master of Pharmacy program in the field this fall.
The school of pharmacy Master’s Program in Psychoactive Pharmaceutical Investigation is the first of its kind in the country, said Cody Wenthur, assistant professor of pharmacy and program director.
The fully online program aims to train students to develop and seek approval for psychoactive drugs such as psilocybin, the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms,” which studies have shown promise for depression. Another psychoactive drug, MDMA, better known as the street drug ecstasy, has shown promise for post-traumatic stress disorder, and such substances are also being studied to treat anxiety and depression. addiction.
“If the data continues to look promising for clinical trials, then there will be a great need to fill positions as this industry continues to grow,” Wenthur said.
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With high levels of suicide and opioid overdoses in the United States, and drugs approved for depression and PTSD that are not effective for a significant portion of patients, “anything that can help reverse these extremely concerns will be met with great enthusiasm,” he said. noted.
The market for psychoactive treatments, including psychedelics and cannabinoids, is expected to grow nearly 20% annually, to be worth $100 billion by 2030, Wenthur said.
The master’s program will cover the science, history, ethics and legal environment surrounding drugs, he said. Most psychedelics are Schedule 1, meaning they’re banned, though ketamine, known as “Special K,” is approved as an anesthetic and used clinically for depression, including at UW Health.
The Food and Drug Administration has given “breakthrough therapy” designation to psilocybin for depression and MDMA for PTSD, indicating support for potential approval if the studies proceed.
Wenthur said around 30 students are initially expected to enroll in the 31-credit, two-year master’s program, which in 2022 will also begin offering a one-year accelerated option. A 12-credit summary certificate will also be available.
UW-Madison, along with Johns Hopkins University, Yale University, New York University and University of California, San Francisco, are the sites of a Phase 2 study of psilocybin for depression . The study is sponsored by the Madison-based Usona Institute, a nonprofit co-founded in 2014 by Bill Linton, CEO of Fitchburg-based Promega Corp.
An earlier university study on psilocybin found the drug to be safe in healthy volunteers. In a quiet treatment room filled with colorful artwork at the pharmacy school, a dozen people took increasing doses of the drug over several months, with guides experienced in meditation helping the subjects as they lived. their trip “.
A phase 3 study of MDMA for PTSD, at UW-Madison and 15 other locations across the countrywas sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies in Santa Cruz, California.
Wenthur said further studies at UW-Madison plan to evaluate psilocybin for opioid and methamphetamine addiction. Another aims to see if a psychedelic experience is necessary for psilocybin to have a therapeutic effect.
The market for psychoactive treatments, including psychedelics and cannabinoids, is expected to grow nearly 20% annually.