Wall Street and Peter Thiel are all investing in psychedelics. But Oxycotin showed the harm profit-hungry corporations can cause with ‘wonder drugs’
The new Hulu series Dopesick is a dramatic reminder of the devastation that has been wrought by the opioid epidemic. Like the book on which it was based, and like other journalism about the Oxycontin crisis, the show makes it clear that members of the Sackler family, Purdue, unscrupulous doctors, and the FDA all played a part in causing the rampant overprescription of Oxycontin. Suddenly every kind of pain – not only physical but also psychological and social – seemed to have a single answer: Oxycontin. Opioids are one of the oldest drugs in the human pharmacopeia, but Oxycontin’s new patents made every person in pain a source of easy money for Purdue. This led to a wave of addiction and overdose. When regulators cracked down on legal pills, many people turned to the illicit drug market, putting them in even greater danger.
Yet even as America reckons with the aftermath of the Oxycontin disaster, it’s embracing a new class of supposed wonder drugs. Like opioids, these “new” drugs are long-time favorites: psychedelics. Ironically, one of their supposedly miraculous qualities is their power in treating substance use disorders. The FDA – whose lax oversight and close ties to corporate lobbyists played such a crucial role in the Oxycontin debacle – has placed MDMA and psilocybin on expedited approval tracks for the treatment of PTSD and treatment-resistant depression. MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD is in advanced trials, and could receive FDA approval as soon as 2023.
Ross Ellenhorn is a sociologist and psychotherapist and the founder and CEO of Ellenhorn. Dimitri Mugianis is a harm reductionist, activist, musician, poet, writer, and anarchist, with over two decades of experience as a psychedelic practitioner. Ellenhorn and Mugianis are the founders of Cardea