Awakn Life Sciences, led by scientists Professor David Nutt and Dr. Ben Sessa, is working to integrate psychedelic medicine into mainstream mental healthcare in the UK and EU. In recent company developments, Awakn announced the selection of a contract research organization, PRA Health Sciences, to conduct a Phase IIb trial studying the effectiveness of MDMA assisted psychotherapy as a treatment for patients with Non-Physically Dependent Alcohol Use Disorder.
MDMA is a psychoactive drug primarily used for recreational purposes. The desired effects include altered sensations, increased energy and empathy. However, there has been growing evidence that MDMA is useful in the treatment of alcohol addiction. In fact, Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Ben Sessa, who will head the Phase IIb clinical trial, previously published his research on the matter in the journal, Neuropharmacology.
At Awakn, scientists and researchers are overseeing the global initiative to develop new strategies for tackling Non-Physically Dependent Alcohol Use Disorder, as well as other mental health disorders. Awakn’s business model consists of three divisions: research, the development of clinics to provide treatment for issues including anxiety, depression and eating disorders as well as addiction, and training for clinicians interested in delivering such therapies. In an effort to legalize the use of psychedelics as medicine in the UK, this trial is just one of many studies being conducted across the country. Today, the potential for psychedelic medical treatment in the UK looks very promising.
Awakn will also be opening the UK’s first medical psychedelic clinic in Bristol. Here, either ketamine-assisted psychotherapy will be implemented or a series of low doses of ketamine complemented by talk therapy sessions. Ketamine is most commonly used as an anaesthetic and is already legal in the UK. Awakn is looking to open a chain of similar clinics in cities like London, Birmingham, Manchester and Brighton.
There has never been a greater need for alternative therapies, especially during a time when the coronavirus pandemic is, in many cases, creating a mental health crisis, and psychedelic medicines could offer a reprieve from symptoms.
According to Dr. Sessa, “We are about to experience a massive wave of mental health problems—I’m seeing a rise in cases already in my caseload.”
He says that now is the time to adopt innovative approaches to transform how we do psychiatry.
As someone who is not only vested, but also excited about the good work being done at Awakn, my hope is that the group will continue to become a global center of expertise in psychedelic-assisted therapy. With an impressive list of experts and pioneers involved, I think we will see forward-progress when it comes to integrating psychedelic medicine into mainstream mental healthcare.