Psychedelic Treatments Vary Greatly By Cost And Setting, What About Efficacy?

Psychedelic therapy is on the rise. June 2022 data from Data Bridge Market Research reports that the US psychedelic drug market could be valued at $9.8 billion by 2029, with a nearly 17% CAGR.

Age-old indigenous approaches are now joined by ventures replicating the intent of the practice while simultaneously ushering in modern Western medicine settings.

Such settings vary, ranging from labs to luxury suites on picturesque island resorts. With evolution comes calls for responsibility.

"It's essential that modern retreat centers learn from indigenous practices and understand how to mitigate the risk of harm," Matthew X. Lowe Ph.D., research director for Colorado-based psychedelics research nonprofit Unlimited Sciences.

At the same time, calls for access are made as concerns over affordable pricing and indigenous inclusion remain.

How Effective Are Psychedelic Resorts?

Psychedelic resorts aren't new. In Amazon basin countries where ayahuasca ceremonies originate, like in Peru, lodges have been established for some time. Development saw a boom as interest in ayahuasca rose across North America and Europe over the past decade and a half.

Resorts and the subsequent rise of medical-based settings have opened two wide avenues for alternative psychedelic therapies. Still, some have wondered if removing or reducing indigenous settings or practices affects efficacy and outcomes.

With various psychedelics and methods utilized, it isn't easy to gauge the effectiveness of labs and resorts. Instead, we can glean information the same way a person may research airlines and hotels.

On TripAdvisor, psilocybin-assisted therapy center MycoMeditations received 180 excellent ratings from 187 reviews. Select reviews call the Treasure Bay, Jamaica-based operation life-changing and transformational.

"Traveling to a new and foreign location to embark upon a serious and potentially profound, transformative and life-changing experience is part of the appeal," said CEO Justin Townsend.

MycoMeditations offers three types of weeklong retreats, ranging from US$4300 to $8000.

Some travel sites report that a Peruvian resort-based retreat can cost between $1000 and $1500. On the other hand, a traditional ritual with a shaman or community could cost less than $100, with the money going directly to the community.

Urban treatment centers are on the rise for those unable or unwilling to venture into nature. Nushama is a New York City-based ketamine treatment clinic. Medical director Dr. Steven Radowitz said the company built its 18 treatment rooms focusing on set and setting.

Creating an experience aimed at having patients look inward, Nushama utilizes eye masks and headphones playing music to replicate the psychedelic journey. The company offers individual and group settings.

Unlike traditional and resort settings, Nushama and other urban labs often stagger treatments. In some cases, patients may undergo a three to four-week ketamine treatment period, including six scheduled infusions for one hour each appointment. The cost of the six sessions plus a booster costs $4500.

Radowitz said the company relies on their past experiences with traditional psychedelic treatments, demonstrating an appreciation for the surroundings as much as the substance used.

"The environment, the people around you, the intentions, the work you do before and after is just as much a part of the treatment as the actual substance we use," Radowitz said.

Radowitz discussed bringing costs down, including exploring methods like group therapy. Nushama offers 35% discounts to frontline workers and partial and complete scholarships for group cohorts.

Efficacy is subjective, with little to no data to assess. Using a metric like Alphabet Inc Class A GOOGL reviews, the company has a 4.6 out of 5 stars.

However, one person did offer a negative review, citing concerns over the drug's administration. The site included reviews from employees.

What To Look For

Those interested in psychedelics therapy are urged to use patience, taking time to research options thoroughly.

Unlimited Sciences' Dr. Lowe recommends a retreat that considers destination and the preservation of indigenous groups. He feels any psychedelic setting can be effective with preparation and understanding of the psychedelics.

"Without adequate preparation and support, novice individuals attending psychedelic ceremonies are at risk of challenging and potentially harmful experiences during and following the ceremony," he said.

Tom Feegel, CEO of ibogaine treatment center Beond, listed numerous parameters would-be patients should consider, including:

  • Program overview (During and after sessions)
  • Confirmation of professional skills and medical qualifications
  • Third-party reviews
  • Facts (Clinical reviews, peer studies, etc.)

He also said a thorough interview of each potential patient is critical.

"A basic web form is insufficient to achieve mutual understanding and connection around the shared goals and expectations," he said.

Some encourage perspective, namely around pricing and access.

Alex Gillard, world traveler and founder of nomad nature travel, said even traditional community treatments come at a cost.

"Authentic experiences in semi-well-preserved patches of the increasingly degraded and destroyed Amazon are already bougie ones," he said, adding that access is typically reserved for the upper middle class or above.

He recommends sites like TripAdvisor to weed out potentially dangerous providers.

"If the overwhelming majority can't say enough good things about a particular lodge or shaman, and there are a lot of recent reviews, it's probably a safe bet," Gillard said.

Photo courtesy of Nushama

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