Normalizing Psychedelics: An Interview with Matthew X. Lowe

We spoke to Matthew X. Lowe, Ph.D., Director of Research at Unlimited Sciences, about how psychedelics can change things medically and recreationally in the U.S.

Addison Herron-Wheeler

Over the past few years, psychedelics are finally becoming more normalized, but for the most part, that just means psilocybin. LSD is still considered, even by many who are interested in the world of mushrooms and cannabis, to be a taboo substance. Unlimited Sciences and Matthew X. Lowe would love to change that. We chatted with him about the moves he’s been making to change the culture and bring psychedelics access to those who need it.

What is the history of the company, and how are you aiming to change these stigmas?

Unlimited Sciences is a fairly new company. We were officially launched in 2018. Most of what we’ve been doing until now is psilocybin research. We just concluded that study recently with Johns Hopkins University of 8,400 individuals enrolled, making it the single largest longitudinal study in the world on psilocybin. We started to analyze the data, and we are seeing some very promising results with reductions in depression and anxiety.

We’re looking at multiple different metrics including risks and safety profiles, dosages, and set and setting. We also have our ayahuasca study that we’re running this summer, and then we’re also looking to create a general registry of feedback about psilocybin. That registry will also include LSD, so we’re kind of expanding our research and exploring more ways that we can bring awareness about the risks and the benefits.

What are you doing to specifically change the way LSD and other more blacklisted substances are seen?

We all heard the horror stories and we kind of grew up with those stories and stigma. So really, on that front, the biggest thing we’re aiming to do is to raise education and awareness, not just about the benefits of these substances, but also about how to mitigate risks. And that’s one of the most important things that’s often overlooked.

On [one] hand, yes, we want to push this legislation through as quickly as we can, but it’s super important to not only understand the benefits and what they can bring, but also mitigate those risks, because as we know, there can be significant risks if you’re under- or uneducated about what could go wrong.

To help with that, we have a free call center where individuals can phone and ask questions, often related to how they can mitigate risks around cannabis use. And we want to do the exact same thing for psychedelics. The plan is to develop a call center where you can call in and ask questions about how much you should take. It won’t be medical advice, but it will be based on data-driven research. We’re trying to get as much data as we can, and the psilocybin studies have contributed significantly to that.

We’re also continuing to do outreach, and we write articles and present them at scientific conferences. We’re working extensively with psilocybin and then plan to delve into LSD. We aim to talk about and raise awareness on these topics through data-driven efforts so that we can provide objective, unbiased feedback.

How would you like to see people think about psychedelics 10 or 20 years from now?

Personally, I see it as a mix of more information, medical legalization, and some recreational legalization, to a certain extent. I can imagine substances such as psilocybin, for example, being treated very much like cannabis in the coming years. So, for substances where there have been far fewer documented risks, and where risk of an overdose is low, I can see those being recreational.

But for the majority of substances that I’m talking about, I would see them strictly as controlled within the medical space, and that’s because some of them can have quite a few risks. When you talk about things like psychosis, if you have a predisposition to that or a family history, even usage of cannabis can trigger that. So for things like ayahuasca and LSD, I see that being more in the medically regulated space.

What are some of the biggest benefits that you think humanity can get from these substances?

Personally, I think it’s endless. The most immediate ones are of course mental health. We have a mental health crisis, and the systems and medications and treatments we have today are failing for many. Up to a third of individuals suffering from depression have treatment-resistant depression. I hope that in the future, psychedelics won’t just be the last line of defense for mental health issues, but one of the first lines.

Addison Herron-Wheeler

Addison Herron-Wheeler is co-publisher and owner of OUT FRONT Magazine, and web editor of New Noise Magazine. She covers cannabis and heavy metal, and is author of Wicked Woman: Women in Metal from the 1960s to Now and Respirator, a collection of short stories.

Addison Herron-Wheeler

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