Deconstructing Powerful Drugs To Make Better Medicine
Speaking back in May 2022, Dr. Boris Heifets, Assistant Professor, Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine, discussed the future of psychedelics.
Abstract: Psychedelic-class drugs like psilocybin, ketamine and MDMA are powerful probes of conscious states with tremendous promise for an array of psychiatric conditions. Each compound has a unique set of effects, some desirable and others less-so, often dependent on the setting in which they are given. As recent drug development efforts have shown, designing targeted, safer drugs requires more than an understanding of brain receptors. Rather, our understanding must bridge pharmacology, large scale neural dynamics, and behavior, and do so in a way that accounts for the tremendous differences between humans and experimental animal models. What makes MDMA special when taken in a group? Is ketamine an opioid? Does one need to conscious and fully aware to experience the benefit of these therapies? Our research group works with both human patients and mouse models to addresses some of these questions.