“We started our company knowing that women over 40 are prescribed antidepressants at more than three to four times the rate of men, resulting in one in five women taking an antidepressant to get through the day,” says Juan Pablo Capello, co-founder and CEO of ketamine treatment platform Nue Life, which is FDA-approved and raised $23 million in April.

Through platforms like Nue Life or at one of the hundreds of ketamine therapy clinics in the US, patients can take a controlled amount of the psychoactive substance under the careful guidance of a trained clinician to induce an altered state of consciousness (trip). After getting tons of airtime in recent years for its purported ability to treat PTSD, anxiety, and substance abuse, ketamine is now being studied as an effective way to relieve symptoms of postpartum depression.

A recent study in the Journal of Affective Disorders suggests that in patients at high risk for postpartum depression, a single dose of ketamine given before anesthesia during a cesarean section may be effective in preventing it. Another ketamine therapy startup, Field Trip, is also about to begin private phase I clinical trials for FT-104, a psychedelic molecule that is similar to psilocybin but has a much shorter travel time. (Nikita Singhal’s father, Sanjay Singhal, an entrepreneur who founded audiobooks.com, is an advisor to Field Trip.) “FT-104 has all the features that make psilocybin so interesting and therapeutically attractive—safety and efficacy—but with a lot short duration of action,” Field Trip co-founder and executive chairman Ronan Levy told me. According to Levy, Field Trip’s existing preclinical studies signal that FT-104 will leave the body after 12 hours, meaning breastfeeding could hypothetically resume within 24 hours—something that will ultimately need to be validated in human trials and subject to scientific peer review.

Also says the postpartum depression market is attractive for psychedelic development because there is currently only one drug for the condition (Zulreso). Ramsden is a believer in part because psychedelics worked to ease her own symptoms after she gave birth to her first child. “The change in my lived experience has led to recurring depressive cycles, and it’s not necessarily the hormonal thing that’s the ongoing problem,” she says. “It was just the change in my experience as a result of becoming a mother in a society that expected me to be a certain way.” She says she initially tried SSRIs and traditional therapy, but finally arrived on stable footing after having tried psychotherapy using psychedelics.

Ramsden believes that the entire psychedelic industry is still in its very early days. But she can imagine a culture where it’s normal for women to openly take psychedelic drugs. When something is related to health works for women, she believes, good news spreads like wildfire.

Alison Feduccia, who has a PhD in neuropharmacology, believes the best evidence we have about how psychedelics affect women is still mostly anecdotal. For example, there are accounts that suggest this peyote increases milk productionidea supported by preliminary research since 1970. People have been reporting the ways for years psychedelics changed their menstrual cycle, associating them with heavier periods, a period that arrives early, or – alternatively – a more regular cycle. Research shows that estrogen enhances the dopamine reward pathway in the brain, so it’s also possible that a woman’s response to a certain drug is more pleasant depending on the phase of her menstrual cycle.

Feduccia argues that psychedelics can be especially helpful for the “rituals of initiation” that most women go through. “Psychedelics can bring a better perspective when you get your first period, have your first child, and then go through menopause,” she says. “I just hope that women can benefit [from psychedelics] without having to drop $20,000 on a targeted approach.”

This guided approach is not only expensive but also fraught with ethical problems. A number of high-profile cases of psychedelic abuse have made headlines in recent years. Richard Jensen, an unlicensed therapist who was a sub-researcher for MAPS, is accused of sexually abusing a PTSD patient during a MAPS clinical trial of MDMA. Allegations of sexual abuse have also been made against Aaron Grosbard and his wife, Françoise Bourza, leaders of a prominent Bay Area group that has practiced psychedelic therapy for more than 30 years.


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