The pandemic, social unrest, ugly partisan politics, cable news spewing fear and hate, soul-crushing social media, and Russia’s war against Ukraine has contributed to record levels of mental health issues. Nearly 20% of adults are experiencing a mental illness, which is about 50 million Americans. Nearly 5% are experiencing a severe mental illness. The Global Health Data Exchange estimates that 251-310 million people worldwide suffer from depression.

To learn about ways to help with this mental health epidemic, I spoke with Dr. Tiago Reis Marques, a psychiatrist at one of the top psychiatry centers in the world, a fellow at Imperial College London, and lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London. Dr. Marques said that while depression and other mental health issues are now very common, they could be treated.

Dr. Marques shared that one promising novel innovation is psychedelic drug-assisted psychotherapy—the medically approved use of MDMA, psilocybin, and LSD as a component of elevated psychotherapy programs.

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Psychedelic psychotropics are gaining widespread attention. What used to be classified as illicit drugs, accompanied by serious legal ramifications, is now becoming an accepted part of psychiatric and medical treatments for a range of issues including depression and post traumatic stress disorder. Treatment with psilocybin has shown promise in research settings for treating a range of mental health disorders and addictions.

Young man sitting on carpet at home wearing VR glasses

Dr. Marques is also the CEO of Pasithea Therapeutics Corporation, a U.S.-based biotechnology company focused on the research and discovery of new and effective treatments for psychiatric and neurological disorders. Pasithea, in Greek mythology, was the personification of relaxation, meditation, hallucinations and all other altered states of consciousness. The biotech company is focused on addressing the needs of patients currently suffering with mental illness by providing access to IV ketamine infusions both in clinics and in-home settings.

Data has shown that patients with treatment-resistant anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder are among those who would benefit from an expanded therapeutic regimen that includes psychedelic medicines, which have been found to be both effective and safe in the treatment of these conditions.

“With these new clinics, we will broaden our London footprint and start offering pharmacy services and new treatment options, bringing important and novel mental health therapies to an ever-growing number of people. In addition to pharmacy services, our London clinics will offer other psychiatric treatment therapies, including repeated transcranial magnetic stimulation in addition to intravenous (“IV”) ketamine,” said Dr. Marques about his business plans.

Pasithea Therapeutics recently announced a collaboration with The Glimpse Group, a VR and augmented reality platform company. The partnership will allow Pasithea to co-develop VR environments for patients with psychiatric disorders. This arrangement marries mental health care provided in the metaverse, along with psychedelic drug-assisted psychotherapy treatment in a safe space.

Glimpse’s Foretell Reality division will apply VR technology to various use cases of mental health therapy, support, and human interaction. VR can also create scenarios to reflect specific traumatic experiences or simulate emotionally loaded conversations.

VR is increasingly becoming an innovative clinical tool for patients with specific psychiatric symptoms, which leads to improved patient outcomes, and we look forward to co-developing the program alongside Glimpse,” stated Dr. Tiago Reis Marques, CEO of Pasithea Therapeutics. Pasithea is led by Professor Lawrence Steinman, Endowed Chair in the Neurology Department at Stanford University, who has founded several successful biotech companies and taken drugs to market.

Lyron Bentovim, President and CEO of Glimpse said about the collaboration, “VR technology is becoming widely adopted in the healthcare industry, with a range of applications including mental health and psychological therapies, pain management, and robotic surgery. Glimpse, through its base of subsidiary companies, has direct experience in developing such solutions with leading companies, hospitals, and universities in the segment. We look forward to our collaboration with Pasithea.”

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