Atlanta Lawmaker Pushes City To Study Psilocybin, Ketamine Treatments

Psychedelic therapy could be coming to Atlanta.

A city councilmember in Atlanta has proposed a measure that could open the door for both psilocybin and ketamine treatments.

The councilmember, Liliana Bakhtiari, believes that health plans for city workers should include the treatments, which research has shown to be effective in combating mental health disorders such as PTSD.

“We should be offering our employees — and especially our first responders, who are expected to be superhuman — the same amount of grace and providing them with a tool set to essentially overcome this issue,” Bakhtiari said in an interview with Axios.

Per Axios, the proposal “tasks the city’s HR department with studying the pros and cons of ketamine and psilocybin to treat mental health issues and whether the employee health plan could cover the treatments.”

The outlet adds that “ketamine can be taken under the care of a psychiatrist” in Georgia, and that Bakhtiari “says she has used ketamine therapy to treat past trauma,” and that “some sessions can cost roughly $350 out of pocket.”

As a councilmember, Bakhtiari has been a vocal champion of the treatment and drug reform.

In 2022, Bakhtiari introduced a resolution that would have “formally request[ed] that police make it ‘the lowest law enforcement priority’ to investigate or arrest people for ‘planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, engaging in practices with, or possessing Entheogenic Plants, Fungi, and Spores or plant compounds,’” Marijuana Moment reported at the time.

With a growing body of research on the efficacy of psychedelics as a mental health treatment, more lawmakers across the country have pushed for reform.

Earlier this year in Vermont, lawmakers passed a measure to set up a working group to look into psychedelics and their application in therapy.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore signed a similar bill into law earlier this month. The measure will create the “Task Force on Responsible Use of Natural Psychedelic Substances,” a 17-member panel that will make recommendations designed to “[enable] broad, equitable, and affordable access to psychedelic substances.”

The law requires the task force to make the recommendations “regarding any changes to State law, policies, and practices needed to create a program that enables broad, equitable, and affordable access to psychedelic substances; and requiring the Task Force to report its findings to the Governor and the General Assembly on or before July 31, 2025.”

Meanwhile, a bill recently introduced in the New York Assembly would legalized psilcoybin service centers.

The proposal would change the existing law “in relation to promoting the health and well-being of the citizens of the state of New York by establishing a comprehensive framework supporting public health and safety through regulated adult use, support services, and cultivation of psilocybin-containing fungi.”

Additionally, the bill would seat up the “Regulated Psilocybin Advisory Board,” comprised of 13 members who would be charged with studying laws and policies pertaining to psilocybin, and then provide recommendations to the state’s Department of Health. Per the text of the bill, the board would “develop a long-term strategic plan for ensuring that psilocybin services in the state will become and remain a safe, accessible and affordable therapeutic option, including in therapeutic and medical treatments, for all persons eighteen years of age and older for whom psilocybin services may be appropriate.”

A study published earlier this year revealed that individuals with major depressive disorder experienced improvement in their symptoms following intravenous ketamine infusion therapy.

The report, based on a clinical trial involving 75 patients across four sites in the United States, was published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

The patients “received 3 IV ketamine infusions over an 11-day period.” 

“Key exclusion criteria were psychotic symptoms, significant substance abuse, unstable medical conditions, and any use of cannabis. Pre-existing antidepressant medication was maintained. Primary outcome was remission as measured by Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS), with secondary outcome of 50 % reduction in Beck Suicide Scale score. Safety monitoring and varying durations of infusions were also key parameters,” the authors of the study wrote. 

“The consistency of outcomes across 4 clinical sites and across multiple instruments, suggests high acute efficacy and safety of IV ketamine for serious depressive episodes. Duration of infusion did not alter outcomes,” the authors wrote in their conclusion. 

“Meaningfully, 40 % of non-responders after a single infusion did reach remission subsequently, while only 20 % of non-responders after 2 infusions achieved remission, suggesting early response is suggestive for eventual remission. Our data on varying ketamine infusion duration adds novel insights into the clinical administration of this new treatment for refractory and severe patients. Our limitations included a lack of a control group, necessitating caution about conclusions of efficacy, balanced by the utility of reporting “real-world” outcomes across multiple clinical sites. We could also not separately analyze results for bipolar disorder due to small numbers. Together, the Bio-K clinical results are promising and provide significant sample sizes for forthcoming biological markers analyses.

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