Ancient cultures recognized the powerful effects of psychedelic experiences 5,000 years ago, according to carbon dating of peyote cactus buttons collected by Native Americans. Strong evidence suggests indigenous cultures in other regions of the world were also well aware of what we today refer to as “Magic Mushrooms.” Indeed, even the Eleusians of ancient Greece were said to have imbibed a psychedelic drink as part of a secretive annual ceremony.
Despite a rich history of usage and even reverence, however, these mystical substances have remained largely off-radar in modern times.
Within the last couple of centuries, though—and especially the last couple of decades—psychedelics have shifted from being shrouded in mystery to sitting near the front of a pressing societal conversation: What is going on with our mental health, and how can we fix things?
Filament Health is one of several newer psychedelic drug development companies entering the space as governments trod (very slowly) toward legalization of psychoactive compounds. The Vancouver-based company believes measurable and efficacious medicines “will be a catalyst to addressing many of the world’s mental health problems and that natural psychedelics provide an optimal option for widespread adoption of these substances.”
Filament, which went public on the NEO Exchange in late June, says its mission is to see approved psychedelics “in the hands of everyone who needs them as soon as possible.” This mission stems from Ben Lightburn, the Canadian company’s CEO, who told Techcouver that he believes psychedelics “can alleviate a wide number of elements of the mental health crisis.”
However, it’s more than just giving people access to safe mushrooms.
According to Lightburn, who has a background in botanical extraction technologies, many companies in the space do not prioritize the natural aspect of psychoactive compounds. He notes that nature “has already done the hard work of perfecting psychedelic species for over one and a half billion years.”
“We believe extracting, purifying, and standardizing natural compounds, without harmful synthetic chemicals or residues, is the best way to bring this unrealized drug discovery potential to the world,” the CEO says. “Filament Health is exclusively focused on natural psychedelics, and to my knowledge no other organizations in this space are exclusively natural-focused.”
In July, the Canadian company received an amendment to their Canada Dealer’s License. The update allows for possession, production, research supply, export, import, and delivery for all controlled natural psychedelic substances—an exciting moment for Filament, according to the startup’s director of research, Ryan Moss.
“By studying untapped psychedelics in a scientific setting, we believe we can unlock and standardize their healing power,” he explained. “This is a promising step forward in our mission.”
Earlier this month, Filament took another step forward by becoming the first public company to be issued a patent by the Canadian Intellectual Property Office for the extraction and standardization of natural psilocybin and associated psychoactive compounds. Lightburn says this “important progress” comes as a result of developing technology to extract and standardize a stable dose of natural psilocybin in order to overcome high variability in the field.
Alas, as with all other psychadelic companies, Filament is forced to wait on its end goal of actually putting medicine in the hands of customers. As Lightburn laments, there is as yet no legal market for psychedelic drugs. The “regulatory regime,” as he calls it, places major friction between people and potentially life-saving psychedelic substances.
“Government restrictions also make it difficult for companies like ours, who are doing important research into manufacturing and distributing these substances for medical use,” the CEO says. “I’m hopeful that as public perception changes, and people begin to understand the potential for psychedelics to treat many mental health conditions, we will see legislative improvements.”
Some expect that psychedelics will parallel the process which the cannabis industry went through: as the gray market expands and normalizes, public pressure mounts—who is the government to keep us from natural medicine?—and finally the floodgates open.
We don’t know when that moment may arrive. Regardless, Lightburn and his crew at Filament Health will be ready.