Following rapidly in the wake of the international cannabis legalization wave is the mainstreaming of medical psychedelics. At least two southern African companies are moving into this space which may in the long-term, have far more profound implications in health, psychology and economics than the potential of medical marijuana.
A growing body of evidence suggests that using psychedelics, such as psilocybin and LSD, in combination with psychotherapy, can treat the symptoms of several mental health conditions, including depression and substance use disorders.
Psychedelic research on its way to Africa
Psyence and Psilo Cybin move into African psychedelics
Two southern African groups, Psyence and Psilo Cybin, have signalled their intentions to move into psychadelics market, which internationally, enjoyed a boom year in 2020 grew more rapidly last year than cannabis, albeit off a much lower base. They are:
Psyence listed on the Canadian Stock Exchange on 27 January 2021 having alreadt beebn awarded with a ‘psilocybin license’ in Lesotho (see Lesotho issues Africa’s first psilocybin license) where it has repositioned the former Canopy Growth facility at Kojowe, into a centre of psychedelics research with a view to commercial production in the year ahead. Psyence has a strong international team with operations being established in Toronto, Washington DC, Cape Town, Lesotho, Kingston, Jamaica and London, Sydney and Sao Paulo in Brazil.
Co-founder Jody Aufrichtig says there are four pillars to the Psyence Group:
- Therapeutics: mental formulations and therapies to help mental disorders;
- Production: growing and processing non-synthetic GMP psylocibin
- Experience: consciousness-raising retreats to be offered in southern Africa and Jamaica
- Function: health and well-being products and supplements
Psilo Cybin is a Gauteng-based company that was awarded a cannabis cultivation license in October 2020. Founder Gabriel Theron told Cannabiz Africa he’s excited about the company’s first harvest of high-grade Durban Poison for export, anticipated for early February 2021, but is of the view that psychedelic therapies are the way of the future. Theron is putting together a team with the view of launching an international psychedelics company later this year.
All companies venturing into this space are dependent on legal reform recognizing the commercial production of psychedelic medicine. Legal experts believe this may well happen within the next three years in South Africa as alternative medicines and healing systems become more internationally accepted in the same way that medical marijuana has hit the mainstream.
Psychedelics are slowly becoming more acceptable in mainstream medical research. Last year saw the formation of the “Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy Initiative of South Africa” (Phatisa). The organization seeks to explore the opportunities for using psychedelic drugs as treatments in a way that is affordable, safe and culturally appropriate. Phatisa is geared towards psychiatrists, psychologists, general practitioners, nurses, counsellors, social workers, academics and researchers as well as drug policy- and legal experts working in this area.
The Psychology Society of South Africa is also starting to canvass members about their attitude to psychedelic therapies through a programme at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. See here.
To get a deeper insight into African psychelic research, take a look at Science writer Leonie Joubert’s writing on psychonauts.co.za