The battle over hallucinogens as a treatment for mental illness


In the 1960s and 70s, psychedelic drugs defined the hippie generation.

Researchers are now discovering that drugs such as psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine can be used to treat mental illnesses such as PTSD, addiction and depression.

At the forefront of this movement to study the effects of using psychedelic drugs as therapeutics is Dr. Jeannie Fontana, CEO of TREAT California.

TREAT California is a statewide effort to create a $5 billion research funding agency. Provides psychedelic drug treatment and research.

“I see this as an opportunity to create a new paradigm in mental health treatment,” Fontana said. “If we can help at least 10% of the currently untreated population, or he 20-30% of the population, that would be a huge contribution to the field.”

This episode of LA Stories with host Gisele Fernandez tells how Fontana came to play a leading role in this citizen-driven movement.


Unsuitable for the role, Fontana grew up during the Reagan-era war on drugs, where ads and warnings about the dangers of drugs haunted her.

Fontana holds a medical degree in internal medicine, a master of science in environmental toxicology and health, and a doctorate in biochemistry and molecular biophysics. She was a founding member of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, a pioneer in stem cell research. She has also advocated on behalf of ALS patients.

When Fontana first heard about the positive results of psychedelic supportive therapy, she devoted herself to researching and learning all she could about it.

“I was very interested in the potential impact it could have, so I studied it thoroughly in view of its scientific merit,” she said.

Fontana eventually tried psychedelic support therapy herself and called it a life-changing experience.

At this time, people have to travel abroad to receive this treatment, which many people cannot afford. Fontana and her team advocate legalization of her PAT in the United States.

A recent clinical trial of MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD found that 67% of participants were ineligible for a PTSD diagnosis.

In another trial at Johns Hopkins University, 60% of participants remained symptom-free after one year after just one dose of psilocybin-supported therapy for major depressive disorder.

For Fontana, these results demonstrate the real need for legalization and acceptance of these drugs for the treatment of mental illness.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tackle mental health addiction and pain, and everyone should join this movement,” she said. “These are not unsolvable problems. We need to come together and decide that these are the problems we want to solve.”

Catch “LA Stories with Giselle Fernandez” every Monday at 9pm on Spectrum News 1.



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