November 11, 2021
[00:00:52] Podcast Sponsors
[00:05:19] Guest Introduction
[00:06:32] A Brief Overview Of Field Trip Health And Its Unsexy Products
[00:11:19] Various ways Field Trip Health provides therapy and psychedelic journeys.
[00:16:11] How a clinical experience differs from a home or app experience
[00:20:19] Psychedelics beside ketamine we may see legalized in the near future
[00:23:12] Cost considerations for psychedelic journeys now and in the future
[00:28:22] Ronan's Own Experience With A Field Trip Clinic
[00:30:58] Podcast Sponsors
[00:33:12] cont. Ronan's Own Experience With A Field Trip Clinic
[00:38:09] Ronan's Own Experience With A Field Trip Clinic
[00:51:34] Other things about Field Trip and psychedelics Ronan is excited about
[00:58:25] Closing the Podcast
[00:59:25] Legal Disclaimer
Ben: On this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness podcast.
Do you see there being almost like a menu of options for people? And if so, what would be on that menu in your wildest dreams?
Ronan: And, that's not medicine, that's about life. That's about humanity. That's about consciousness. That's what's really cool. And, what that showed me is that this experience of being human is actually a really special experience. Better if we can make the lives of Canadians and all Americans 1 or 2% better, 1 or 2% more empathetic or creative, god, the world would be an entirely different place.
Ben: Health, performance, nutrition, longevity, ancestral living, biohacking, and much more. My name is Ben Greenfield. Welcome to the show.
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Well, folks, welcome to today's show, which is actually as my podcast guest for today and I were just joking about is around two because we started to record a fabulous interview for you. And then, I think, a bulldozer and the entire Genghis Khan military and a herd of elephants broke in through his office door. And, what, you go lock yourself in a broom closet, dude?
Ronan: We have this little phone booth kind of talking rooms now because we're mostly open space, but everyone ever needs a close space every once in a while, for phone calls. So, I locked myself.
Ben: Oh, it's cute.
Ronan: Yeah, equivalent [00:05:59]_____.
Ben: Cool cigarette smoking room. Well, for those of you who don't know the voice of my guest on today's show, why shouldn't you? He's world-famous, but you know what, I'll introduce him anyways. His name is Ronan Levy, R-O-N-A-N, Ronan Levy, L-E-V-Y. You'll access all the shownotes for everything Ronan and I talk about if you go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/Ronan, R-O-N-A-N. Your name is kind of hard to spell. It's like a tongue twister, Ronan, R-O-N-A-N.
Ronan: I like to mix it up.
Ronan: I like to keep things challenging.
Ben: Well, if Ronan's name sounds familiar to you, is because this is the second time he's been my show. We did a podcast called “Microdosing, Biohacking, Plant Medicines, and Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy.” If that gives you a little bit of a flavor as to what this guy can actually wrap on. And, he happens to have founded something that's taking the world by storm right now called Field Trip Health. We did a whole podcast about Field Trip Health and how they're doing ketamine-assisted psychotherapy or what's called psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. And, during that podcast, we delved into MDMA, and I know some companies even doing DMT infusions now and psilocybin, and a whole bunch more related to this whole psychotherapy landscape. And, we'll revisit what that landscape looks like on today's show.
But then, I also wanted to get Ronan on because for many of you who might be familiar with this concept of microdosing or even a journey dosing with something like psilocybin, his company Field Trip Health recently made an announcement about a psychedelic molecule. They've developed that similar in potency to psilocybin but with a shorter duration of psychoactivity and also a great deal of efficacy when it comes to its use as a psychedelic therapy. So, that one is called FT104. Sexy name, Ronan. FT104. I don't even know what that means but it sounds legit.
Ronan: It means Field Trips 100 series of molecules, and it was the 4th one that we worked with. So, it's not very sexy, but it is pretty functional in terms of understanding where it sits in the paradigm of Field Trip.
Ben: That's what it means, now we know, FT104. So anyways, those you are not familiar with Ronan, go listen to my first interview with him because I'm not going to use up a bunch of our time introducing him, but basically he's launched businesses across a number of industries from gold, to cannabis, and most recently as I've alluded to, psychedelics. Formally trained as a securities lawyer, and now he not only has his own podcast called “Field Tripping,” on which I've been a guest and I'll link to that in the shownotes, going to listen to it. But he has also rolled out more of these Field Trip Health facilities since we last talked. We got, what, Toronto, New York, Seattle, Houston, Atlanta, Stamford, LA. Am I missing any?
Ronan: Chicago, Vancouver, Fredericton, and more on the way.
Ronan: Miami, San Diego, San Carlos. Yeah, we're expanding quickly because we expect this psychedelic renaissance to be big and happen extremely quickly.
Ben: Well, yeah. I mean, it is happening right now. And, I think that some people don't really understand how a clinic would actually work in that respect. Although I know you guys wound up doing a lot of kind of more telemedicine in the past couple of years. If I'm not mistaken, now you're kind of opening the doors to business, so to speak, for people who want that spa-like setting for psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, which I'm going to stop saying because it takes a really long time.
Ronan: That's exactly right. So, I mean, I think the psychedelic renaissance takes a number of different forms, but one of them is certainly going to be medical. Treating people with depression, anxiety, PTSD, any number of actual mental health conditions. And, to the extent that it becomes medical, you need the spaces, you need the clinics and the facilities to do this kind of stuff. And, as we know from all of the research out there where you do with the therapist, you do it with the space, how comfortable you are. During it, has a significant impact on your experience. And so, you need spaces, you can't really do psychedelic therapy virtually. You need great spaces with great people providing this kind of stuff.
Ben: Well, you guys tried to do it virtually though. I mean, did you have an app where you were like, ship people a ketamine pill in the mail and have them pop it and then open up the app with the music and everything?
Ronan: We've never actually done the at-home ketamine model yet. It's something that we've been looking at, but we're focused on doing it in person. All of the therapy part, all of the talking to a therapist, that's done virtually these days. But the actual dosing is done in our clinics. And we think as MDMA rolls out, which is right around the corner, probably a year and a half away from FDA approval, again, that's going to need a physical space. They're not going to let you send MDMA. It looks illegal —
Ben: Yeah, I was kind of joking. I didn't expect you guys to be shipping out a bunch of shrooms worldwide and then having people pull up in their iPhone to know what to do. But at the same time, isn't that kind of the idea behind the app? Suppose someone actually had ketamine or psilocybin or something like that, didn't know what to do, they could actually download your app and put on headphones and it kind of walks them through a little bit of an experience.
Ronan: Yeah, that's exactly right. So, our app, Trip, when we were building the clinical model and our protocols for delivering the premium psychedelic-assisted therapy experience in clinic, we realized at that same time Denver had just decriminalized, Oakland had decriminalized, Oregon was on the virtual precipice of legalizing. We're like, “Oh, my god, there's going to be a lot of people doing this and not knowing what they're doing. So, why don't we take all of these amazing protocols that we've developed? All of the great content and music and all of that kind of stuff and put it into an app?” Not encouraging people to necessarily go out and do that on their own, because it's not necessarily a great idea, but also not being naive to the fact that people are going to do this and saying like, “Hey, if you're going to do this on your own,” even it's not on your own, even if it's with friends, “do it the right way.” Make sure you set yourself up to have an amazing experience. Minimize the risk of having a bad trip. And, here's everything you need. As much as we could possibly put that into an app, that's now in the app, and so that's our app, Trip. And, it's available for anyone to use. Whether you're using it with meditation, breathwork, ketamine, legal psychedelics, illegal psychedelics, it's really designed to be an aid and guide.
Ben: Okay. So, it's got the music on there. It's got the breathwork cues. I would imagine you can't legally say, “Here's how much they take of one thing or another to guide your experience.” But do you have a categorized based on molecule being used at all or anything like that? Or it is even that difficult for the legal landscape?
Ronan: We're trying to be conscious about how to get around some of the legal considerations. So, while we can't say here's how much to use, what we are putting together is a nice compendium of all the studies saying, “Hey, there is a study that looked at this much psilocybin for this particular indication like depression. And, here are the results.” And so, people can take that and make their own kind of inferences as to what is appropriate. So, trying to be thoughtful and helpful without pushing the limits.
Ben: How long does a track play? Or could you just like play a track on a loop if you — because obviously, some people might take a little bit of ketamine to relax them and deal with some type of depression, type of issue. And, I personally have used ketamine, it's a 45 to 90 minute-ish experience in many cases. But then, someone might take a journey dose of mushrooms and be laid out for six hours. So, when you select the music, can you actually select how long?
Ronan: You can't quite select how long. There's a number of different tracks, so we have some tracks that are 45 minutes to an hour, which is well-suited for ketamine. We've got East Forests, most recent album. We actually released it through —
Ben: He's a great composer. Yeah.
Ronan: Fantastic. That track, that album is amazing. It's about two hours. If you're going longer than that, we can set it up to loop, so it can support you through the entire journey. But yeah, there's different lengths for different experiences. Not particularly paired, but you can kind of put it together to make sure that you have music through the entire duration.
Ben: Got you. So, you can loop?
Ben: Okay, that's what I like to do. When I find a track that will help me to sleep better at night, I'll literally just, sometimes, put on headphones and go to sleep at night. Not on your app. I haven't used that for sleep. But yeah, just loop as long as it needs to loop. And, that seems to work out well. And, this is something I've found to be useful. I'll often have a digital recording interface that allows me to be able to remember what I said while in a journey or, well, using a substance. Do you have some type of way to record what people are saying in a private way, obviously?
Ronan: Yeah, that's actually the core functionality of the app. So, we take you through a preparation exercise. We help you pick the music or meditations are — actually meditations on there during the actual trip experience. There's a big red button that you can press it and take voice notes that get timestamped and recorded and locked away. So, at the end of the trip, after you've done some integration exercises that we offer as well, you can always go back and revisit all of your thoughts and voice memos in a very concrete way and help you track your progress and see. If you're working on depression and your mood improves or changes in mood and all that kind of stuff and how your narrative identity changes, it's all built into the app. Yeah, exactly.
Ben: Okay, cool. Cool. So, the app, you can get that in iOS or Android store or wherever?
Ronan: Exactly. Or you can go to tripapp.co. It turns out that there's a lot of apps with the word trip in it, not necessarily pertaining to psychedelics. So, if you're having trouble finding it, go to tripapp. co is the best —
Ben: Oh, yeah, because it'd be vacation and find an Airbnb or VRBO for you, that type of thing. Yeah.
Ben: Yeah, I could see someone downloading your app and commenting that it's relatively useless because they never got a hotel. Okay.
Ronan: Yup, exactly.
Ben: So then, when it comes to the actual clinic experience, obviously that's something different. And, I mean, since we last did an interview — Wired magazine did a story on you guys. And, I'll link to that in the shownotes at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/Ronan. But in the article that Wired wrote, they talked about settling into a room with these zero gravity leather recliners and weighted blankets and then taking some type of ego quieting psychedelic substance under the supervision of a trained therapist. Is that still kind of the experience? Because I have yet to actually go to one because you freaking have an open one and Spoke-Kazakhstan yet, but what's actually occurring when someone walks in?
Ronan: Yeah, that's exactly it. I mean, we do medical screening because this is still very much medicine, but assuming ketamine-assisted therapy, which is what we provide in the U.S. right now, because it's the only thing that's legal and we provide psilocybin in the Netherlands because we can. We screen you, you come in, you meet with — you'll speak with their therapeutic team in advance. But you come in, we help you prepare. We help you get in the right mindset. All of our places are, I like the term, “oasis-like” as opposed to small-like but they're really beautiful spaces designed to make people feel comfortable and at ease. You settle in to your zero gravity of reclining chair. Therapist is sitting beside you. I put on noise-canceling headphones and nice weighted blanket, some eyeshades. You get the medicine and you go inwards and you're there. You experience whatever you're going to experience. The therapist is with you the entire time. At the end of it, you can just kind of debrief, talk about what came up. And, that's it. And then, there's a lounge where you can hang out afterwards because even after they experience, some people aren't ready to go back to real life.
Ben: Oh, dude like —
Ronan: They put men in jail for as long as possible.
Ben: For me, if I use ketamine, I — actually every couple of weeks, we talked about this on the last show, I'll use ketamine for massage therapy, but there's no way I'm going to want to drive anywhere afterwards or do anything aside from just kind of sit there smiling and journaling to myself and being in my happy place for a couple hours. Again, once the medicine is not completely gone out of your system but you're well out of that disassociated space that ketamine puts you into, you really don't feel going out to a cocktail party afterwards.
Ronan: Not at all. That's exactly right. And truthfully, we want you to stay in that space. That space is where the magic, for lack of a better term, happens is like when you've got that space, you've got the relaxation and disconnection from all the thoughts that are running in your head. And, you can actually reflect cleanly and openly on your life and who you are and where you want to be in all that kind of stuff that journaling is so powerful for. Take that space. Take that opportunity. Don't go back into regular life —
Ben: No, keep yourself off for crying out loud, even using the app. Keep your phone in airplane mode. You do not want to open yourself up to whoever randomly decided to text message you and the two hours while you were in there when you first come out of it. And so, that's super important, but then, for me, if I were to get a massage, Ronan, at my house and we're to use Ketamine to do that, the massage therapist and I have an understanding. She just kind of leaves when she's done and I sit quietly, and I can journal, and just kind of continue to listen to the music and listen to some of my audios. And, I use that as fodder for coming up with ideas for new articles or books. Or, tackling some type of a conundrum I've been experiencing personally or professionally. But if someone's at the clinic, I mean what if they have treatment at 5:00 pm and the clinic closes at 6:00 pm or something? You just kick him out and good luck or go sit in your car in the parking lot? Because I've heard horror stories about stuff like that.
Ronan: Yeah, I know, we certainly don't do that. We schedule around it. So, typically people won't start any time after kind of 2:00 pm. And then, the clinic usually closes its doors around 6:00 or 7:00. So, if the ketamine experience is about an hour to an hour and a half, there's always a good couple hours baked in where people can just be present in the clinic without having to hurry home.
Ben: Talk to me about some of the other things beyond ketamine that you think we're going to start to see? Obviously, you're a lawyer, so you have to talk with your lawyer. And, this isn't legal at this time and blah, blah, blah. But anyways, like — and I don't want to be dismissive of any of this stuff we're talking about at its core is sacred. What we're talking about at its core is deeply meaningful and impactful, so I don't want to discount that when I'm joking around. But at the same time, Ronan, in terms of the landscape of what this looks like, if someone were to walk into a Field Trip Health clinic right now, they can obviously have an amazing spa-like experience with something like ketamine. But what's that look like say five years from now? Know when you walk into an antiaging clinic and you can choose your NAD cocktail, and your vitamin C cocktail, and your ozone, this and that. I mean, do you see there being almost like a menu of options for people? And if so, what would be on that menu in your wildest dreams?
Ronan: Yeah, 100% I see a menu of options. I think we're going to see new options available would be restricted not — I don't think it's going to be going into an antiaging clinic where you can pick A, B, C, one, two, three and put together your perfect cocktail. I think that comes, but I think that takes a little while. What we're seeing in the next five years, we're going to see MDMA-assisted therapy become FDA-approved for the treatment of PTSD. But lo and behold, most depression often has roots and trauma to some degree. So, I think you'll see MDMA-assisted therapy quickly become available to anybody who's dealing with depression, or anxiety, or anything along those lines.
Psilocybin is probably three, four, five years out from FDA approval, but even though that's still a little bit out, we're seeing states like the state of Oregon legalize access to psilocybin therapies. I'm quite confident you'll see California legalize or at least decriminalize psilocybin next year. Canada federally, probably is going to legalize psilocybin to some degree. You got Florida. You got Hawaii. You got all these states creating some sort of access programs. Over the next couple of years, psilocybin will become an option.
You'll probably see DMT become an option. You'll see LSD potentially become an option. LSD is a little bit more challenging because it's such a long trip time. It makes it kind of clinically difficult to have someone sitting around for that long having to experience. But you'll probably see LSD become an option for those who want it. 5MEO, it's probably on the horizon as well. So, all of the psychedelics you can think of are probably three, four years away, maybe five years. And then, you're going to see the next generation of psychedelics like FT104, the ones that are taking all the wonderful power of these molecules and just making them better, or more accessible, or more tailored. There's a whole bunch of interesting work around that kind of stuff. But that's probably six, seven years out.
Ben: I definitely want to talk about that FT104. I think that's intriguing that you can just take something and fabricate it and make it very much like you know something that humankind would have used for thousands of years. Arguably, for commune with the divine or spiritual breakthroughs and be able to generate something like that in the lab. I want to talk more about this FT104 for sure. But regarding something like, let's say, as you alluded to, someone wants to and has heard about all the benefits of something like taking LSD, but wants to do so in a very controlled set and setting, which they're safe. Other people around them are safe. Someone knows what they're doing, so they can actually trust the entire process. What is something like that even look like would you anticipate cost-wise? What would it cost out of pocket, or either via insurance for somebody to come in and do a ketamine experience right now with you guys? And, what would — compared to that, something like a long eight-hour experience with someone in your clinic. Would you anticipate with something like LSD look like? People are just curious like how much this stuff costs.
Ronan: Yeah, I totally get it. It's a fair question. Right now, ketamine experience in our clinic is $750, which includes the whole process from the screening all the way through to the end of the first experience, and then subsequent ones are $750 and it's $250 an hour for the integration therapy. So, if you think about it as comparable to what you'd be paying a therapist, the cost is not actually disconnected. If you think a therapist is in the room with you for a couple of hours, which probably is 200 and $250 just for conventional therapy, and they're sitting with you for the duration of this, it kind of lines up to what you'd expect for therapy. And, I think if you just extrapolate that to LSD or psilocybin, assuming that the cost of the psilocybin or the LSD is reasonable, when you get drug development and approvals, you can have drug companies charging an extreme number for the drug because they got to recoup their investment.
And, I don't have insight into what MAPS is going to charge for MDMA or Compass is going to charge for their psilocybin. But assuming it's pretty reasonable, then I think it's pretty easy just to draw a straight-line extrapolation, which is if you have the therapist in the room for two hours and it's 750 bucks for that experience and with LSD, it's going to be 10 hours or 12 hours. You're probably looking at five times the cost for a day, which is basically what you're paying for, is like a full day of therapist. The actual medicine itself is not terribly expensive, it's the cost of the person sitting beside you that ends up being expensive because they're professional. They're qualified and they got degrees and they got to make a living too. But I don't think the cost becomes too outlandish or too disconnected from the time input put in by the professionals who are with you.
Ben: How much longer you think a lot of this stuff gets covered by insurance?
Ronan: Ketamine, it's going to be awhile because ketamine is a generic drug, so no one is doing the work. Well, that's not true. A lot of people are doing the work, but the most natural path to getting insurance coverage is getting drug approval for a specific indication and then taking it around to all the insurance companies. And because ketamine is generic, it's kind of putting the cart before the horse and working backwards. I think MDMA-assisted therapy when it gets approved, probably in the next 18 months, will have insurance coverage coming really quickly within probably six months of approval, maybe a year. And, with the other drugs that are specifically approved for mental health indications, I think, that happens really quick because when you look at the results and the economics, it's insane for [00:26:48]_____ use that word. It would be irrational for insurers and employers not to want to cover this. MAPS, the organization running the MAPS, the MDMA trials, they did their health econometrics on MDMA-assisted therapy, and they suggest that MDMA-assisted therapy, three sessions of it which “cures” nearly 70% of the participants who have participated in their trials of PTSD. I put cures in quotes because it's not quite true, but it's almost true. It would save the average insurance plan $100,000 over the life of that patient. That's a lot of money.
Ronan: And, you can extrapolate that to other trials with psilocybin. And, people who have depression tend to consume 40% or more resources of just medical care. So, not only are you making these people more productive, getting them back to work, we've seen that improvements. And, depression scores actually leads a greater productivity in the workplace as well. So, you're getting better employees, healthier employees who are consuming less medical resources. It would be completely illogical for any insurance plan not to cover this. And, in fact, probably try to make it a first-line option because it's so effective whether it's MDMA or psilocybin. And, in treating the conditions and making people better, quite literally better than they were before that, I think, insurance coverage will be robust and available, and people will be excited to offer that because they will make an ROI on that in spades over the long term.
Ben: How many times have you gone into one of your own clinics and done one of these therapy sessions with ketamine?
Ronan: I actually had my first one about two weeks ago. And, that was mostly a function of regulatory environment and COVID. So, in Toronto where I'm based, the restrictions on who we can treat are actually pretty significant. We can only treat people with treatment-resistant depression. So, you failed two different courses of conventional depression medications. That's not me. So, I had to go to one of our U.S. clinics, but thanks to COVID, I haven't been on a plane since February of 2020 until two weeks ago when I went down to the code conference, and actually got to pose a question to Elon Musk about psychedelics. I don't know if you saw that video, but it's pretty cool getting Elon's perspective on all this kind of stuff. But when I was in LA for code, that's when I had my first ketamine experience and my only ketamine experience actually.
Ben: Well, how'd it go? I mean, I realize I'm putting you in the hot seat on a pod, but I mean any takeaways for you as far as your own experience in your own clinic?
Ronan: Yeah. I mean the clinic is fantastic, our staff is amazing, and I'm not just tooting our own horn. It was actually quite an amazing overall experience. Everyone was thoughtful, caring, super comfortable, super at ease. My ketamine experience itself, it was quite profound actually. I felt like as the ketamine took over that I was seeing the beating heart of the universe, they talk about life afterlife or people who have intense psychedelic experience often get the sense that there's a unifying life force that exists in the universe. Whether you call that God, or a life force, or whatever you want to call it, I experienced that.
Ben: Really with ketamine?
Ronan: Yeah, with ketamine. But it showed me also that even though there is this powerful life force that exists, it's not all bliss and wonder that sometimes there are just some functional elements of being a life force. And so, it's not always super flowery and amazing. And, what that showed me is that this experience of being human emerging from this life soup to become human for a while before we go back to this life soup, it's actually a really special experience, and it's something that we should enjoy for all its wonders and all its miseries. It's a really unique time. It's a really unique experience. And so, love every moment of it. So, coming out of my trip, I just felt an intense amount of gratitude for all the things in my life. Whether I find them stressful or loving, it didn't matter. All of it, I'm trying to enjoy all of it because it's a unique experience being here now.
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The thing with ketamine, the reason I asked about your experience with, for example, feeling more connected to the divine, or universal human consciousness, or what I personally believe is God. A lot of times you'll hear about something like that occurring with DMT or with a very, very high dose of psilocybin or LSD in some cases. With ketamine, I'll often when I speak with people about their experience, hear them talk about really reliving things from their youth, dealing with past traumas, having personal breakthroughs as you get a little bit of the ego kind of set aside and a little bit of that dissociative state. But, sometimes it seems to be a little bit less of a profound molecule with regards to really, really opening up the portals to God, so to speak. If that makes sense. So, that's why I was asking.
Ronan: Yeah, you're 100% right. That tends to be at least the anecdotal reference to ketamine that people find it a little bit more objective, creating some separation. But we definitely hear a lot of experiences from people in our clinics to experience something mystical, experience God, who experienced the transcendent and I had that experience. I've done a lot of work myself with meditation, and coaching, and metaphysics, and all that kind of stuff. So, maybe I was more predisposed or primed for that kind of experience. But it's not uncommon, it's just more common people have a little bit more of an analytical experience as opposed to a wondrous experience.
Ben: Yeah, that's interesting. Do you think it's something you do again?
Ronan: Yeah, totally, I'd be happy to do it again. Coming out of it, I was like, that was pretty intense and I'm like, I don't know if I'd want to do that again. But having had the benefit of a couple of days to integrate, I was like, “Oh, that's actually was an amazing experience.” And, since then, it's been a few weeks, I felt more relaxed, more at ease, more present. All the wonderful things you want to get out of a psychedelic experience, I've actually found, even though coming out of the actual trip, I wasn't feeling top-notch at that particular moment. With the benefit of time, it's been really, I think, transcendent.
Ben: Yeah, my own experience with ketamine for the first time was I was out at a dinner with Dr. Matthew Cook and also a Stanford researcher, another friend of mine named, [00:35:43 Dan Party] and we were talking about ketamine and some of the research that had been done on it. And, this was four years ago. And literally, I was down in the Bay Area, I was engaged in much of podcasts and business meetings, et cetera. And, I think it was Dr. Cook who piped up at the table and he said, “Well, if you'd like to actually see what this feels like, what the experience is like, come into my clinic sometime.” I'm looking at my calendar and essentially, I said, “Well, how things look 10:00 am tomorrow morning?” He's like, “Alright.”
So, I literally went in and had him a very well-trained physician. You administer an IV and a special — they have a room that's kind of like a, it looks like a Chinese traditional medicine practitioner room with very good energy and clean energy and have someone sit with you. And so, that was my first experience. And, since then, it probably used ketamine for the past four years, almost every month, like using it at least one time for many of the benefits that you and many others have spoken about on my podcast, and that I don't necessarily want to get blue in the face about. But it's one of those things I've personally found to be not something that's necessary for everybody to have to check off in life but for anybody who really digs kind of just like setting the ego aside and having a profound experience that, for me personally, has resulted in a lot of enhanced creativity and breakthroughs in terms of my writing and business ideas, et cetera. I think a very, very nice molecule for that a lot. I don't personally have a history of depression and haven't used it as such. I could see it being effective for that as well when administered properly, right?
Ronan: Yeah. One of the things that differentiates us from most ketamine experiences is we give it as an intramuscular injection as opposed to an IV. So, I took 65 milligrams and that sent me into an intense trip. It was a very psychedelic experience. When you get it with an IV, it's a slow drip. It kind of helps put you under. It's a very kind of gentle, slow ride.
With Field Trip, we want you to have the more intense ride with the lowest amount of drug possible. That's where we get the best outcomes of people who have that psychedelic experience to have the trip, but also get all the neurobiology benefits, the neurogenesis, synaptogenesis that's going on. You get everything, you get the whole benefit of doing it the way we do it when you're just doing it with a ketamine infusion. And, maybe there's therapy, maybe there's not. It's like you get some benefit, but you're leaving a lot on the table by doing it that way, as opposed to the Field Trip way.
Ben: Yeah. And so, kind of getting down to brass tacks again with this FT — What's it called? FT104. FT104. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but this is basically like a psilocybin look alike that you guys have developed which, I think, is interesting for a few reasons. First of all, sometimes this sourcing or even the sustainability of harvesting mushrooms can be a little bit tricky, but I also just find it fascinating in terms of the ability to be able to simulate what psilocybin does but with more rapid onset, shorter duration, et cetera. Walk me through the history of why you guys even thought of developing this and how you would actually develop something like FT104. So, get into the science of this with me bro.
Ronan: Yeah, sure. So, I'll start with the why, which is we're seeing profoundly positive results with psilocybin and MDMA in clinical trials. Like I said, 70% of people going through the MDMA trials seemed to be cured of PTSD, psilocybin trials. We're seeing five years of depression relief from a single session. These are mind-blowing numbers in terms of clinical trials, particularly in the mental health sphere.
Two big challenges with these psychedelics. One is business and one is clinical administrative. Business-wise, if you're going after psilocybin or MDMA, these molecules have been around for a long, long time. And so, to generate an ROI on a genericized molecules are really hard. You can get data exclusivity and all that kind of stuff. But without a patent to recoup the couple $100 million, it's going to take to get it to approval. That's going to be hard. So, that's the big challenge with creating a business around the classic psychedelics from a drug development perspective.
Big challenge number two is the time frames like we talked about. You asked me about LSD. It's like, well, if you're in the clinic for 10 hours and it's five times longer than you would be for ketamine, you're probably looking at $5,000 or so for an experience and an entire day off work and all the other attendant things that go along with that kind of commitment to a treatment, which is a wonderful treatment, but it makes it harder for people to participate. So, we set about trying to solve those two problems.
So, FT104, it's a novel molecule. Our Chief Science Officer, Dr. Nathan Bryson, an MIT grad been doing this for 30 years. He set out and he read literally everything you could read, anecdotal and scientific about psychedelics, about tryptamines, most of the classic psychedelics like psilocybin, DMT, LSD. They're all tryptamine. So, that's the class of drug that they are that speaks to their chemical structure. And, he spent a lot of time thinking trying to say like what is the opportunity? How do we do better than psilocybin? And so, the easiest obvious answer was cut the trip in half but don't affect the therapeutic outcomes.
And so, we set out reading about all the known tryptamines and we landed on a particular tryptamine that was a synthetic. It was synthesized by well-known chemist that looked ideal. It looks like psilocybin, all the anecdotal trip reports were very psilocybin-like. But the trip time was about two hours. But it's not an ideal medicine for FDA approvals because of the lack of solubility generally speaking. So, consistency of experience was a challenge. So, Nathan took that original underlying molecule. And, we haven't disclosed what it is. So, that's why I'm being a little bit cagey about it.
Ronan: We went about trying to enhance the solubility about of it in a very simple way. So, we took this underlying molecule and turned it into a prodrug. And, what a prodrug is, I'm sure you know, Ben. But for the benefit —
Ben: A prodrug.
Ronan: A prodrug, yeah.
Ben: Explain that to people.
Ronan: Yeah. So, psilocybin is a prodrug for psilocin. So, you consume psilocybin, your body metabolizes a psilocybin and turns it into psilocin, and that's what is active in your brain.
And so, Nathan took this other molecule that was active, if you just ingested it, turned it into a prodrug. So, attached a moiety to it. So, when you ingest it, that moiety cleaves off, becomes that underlying active drug. But because he's added that pro drug molecule to it, it's become soluble. So, we can turn into really nice medicine for FDA approval processes. And, because we know what the experience is like as soon as you cleave that molecule he's added, it populates back to that original molecule, for which there's lots of anecdotal trip reports. We knew exactly what the experience would be like, and it was a duration of two to three hours.
What we didn't know is exactly what was happening in the brain. So, we set about doing our preclinical studies and what we found is that this underlying molecule basically acts in the brain exactly like psilocybin. It hits the same receptors with basically the same strength. And so, you basically have a psilocybin look-alike that's got half the duration. And, from a drug development perspective, we know it's safe. It's been used historically. There's lots of information. And, we know because it works almost exactly like psilocybin. It's going to be effective, but we've got the trip time in half. So now, instead of having to commit a whole day to it, you can probably do it in morning or an afternoon. And, the indications we're going after for this are treatment-resistant depression but also postpartum depression? Because one of the big challenges with postpartum depression is you need a medication that a mother can take that gets out of her bloodstream fast because you don't want the baby getting any of that because of the intended risks.
And, what we're finding through our preclinical work is with FT104 got this nice short experience. It's a morning, so you don't have to be away from the baby for too long, but it's out of your bloodstream extremely quickly. So, it's kind of the perfect medicine for targeting depression affecting mothers who have such limitations on what they can and cannot take. So, we're really excited by the potential of it.
Ben: Okay. So, psilocybin would basically act as psilocin in the body on these 5-HT2A receptor agonists. It's basically acting on the body's prime serotonin receptor. And, what you've done with FT104 is it's operating on those same receptors, those 5-HT2A receptors. So, it's an agonist, not an antagonist but agonist for those receptors. But unlike psilocybin, it doesn't bind to them for as long a period of time and doesn't — and also in terms of how long a period of time it takes before it binds to them, binds more quickly. So, faster onset, shorter duration.
Ronan: Yup, and faster offset. That's exactly right.
Ben: Okay, got you. So, if you could give me an approximation, let's say soup to nuts, somebody takes whatever, 6 grams of psilocybin to journey with psilocybin, that's probably going to be anywhere depending on the person like, what, four, six, eight hours. It's obviously highly variable. And, in contrast to that, what would an FT104 experience be like?
Ronan: Yeah, two to three hours.
Ben: Two to three hours.
Ronan: Yeah, exactly.
Ben: Okay. So yeah, I mean, probably about a good half to almost maybe even a quarter of the time.
Ronan: That's exactly right. And, that's why it's so perfect from a medical perspective because now we can see more people. People can get in and out, and they can have experiences, they don't have to miss an entire day. I mean, they probably want to miss an entire day, but at least they have some optionality in that. And, like we talked about having that space after ketamine experience, you probably still want to have the space after it, but if you're a new mom, you probably want to get back to your newborn really quickly as soon as possible.
Ronan: So, that's why it's really exciting from that perspective.
Ben: Okay, got it. So, in terms of the use of it, many people will microdose with psilocybin for cognitive performance often using the so-called Stamets' Stack where they'll combine it with a little bit of lion's mane, a little bit of niacin, and kind of get this creative breakthrough for the day.
Ben: With something like FT104, could you potentially see that being used as a nootropic very similarly?
Ronan: I mean, in theory, we're not pursuing that. The evidence around microdosing is still somewhat limited. We know psilocybin and large doses is really effective. We know MDMA in large doses is really effective in terms of the clinical indications and endpoints we're looking for. The evidence around microdosing is not quite there yet. And, there's another —
Ben: You mean, the actual clinical research. There's anecdotal evidence out the wazoo, right?
Ronan: Tons of anecdotal, but not in terms of the clinical. In fact, the first major clinical study which was Robin Carhartt-Harris looking at it came out, I think, late last year suggested that microdosing is actually no more effective than placebo. There's a number of ways to sort of criticize and look at that study and say that's not the proper conclusion, and it still works, but that's one data point.
Ben: I have microdose and talked to a lot of other people of microdose. There's. Absolutely no way that what you feel and are able to do on a microdose as a placebo. I guarantee you and I realize that's not a research study, but I guarantee you, dude, it's not a placebo with microdosing.
Ronan: I hear you. I'm not trying to suggest it, I'm just saying from a business perspective in terms of seeking clinical approvals. It's a higher risk bet than focusing on a large dose.
Ronan: Once the large dose is approved, yeah, then there's any number of ways of analyzing and looking differently. But that's not in our current thought process for the time being.
Ben: That's why I appreciate that because otherwise, we'd be walking into a Field Trip Health clinic and it be a bunch of people wearing tie-dyed T-shirts smelling like patchouli. I like that people who have their pants pulled on all the way are steering the ship, whereas the jokers like me in the back can sit back and experiment with shit, and then let you guys know what's interesting and then you can take it to the research after that.
Ronan: We have a no patchouli rule at Field Trip. That's for sure.
Ben: Yes. No patchouli. Have you personally used FT104?
Ronan: I have not personally used FT104, again, because this is FDA scrutiny. We're very, very careful that people aren't using it and it's only going into animals, and we're not putting it until people until we have our approved phase 1 trial, which starts early next year. But I have tried the underlying molecule that FT104 was derived from. And, my experience was it's exactly as promised, which is very psilocybin-like. But back to yourself, so to speak, in a couple of hours as opposed to being in for a penny, in for a pound with psilocybin or LSD.
Ben: Now, isn't that going to be pretty — it just seems to me that'd be pretty profitable to have developed something like that. I mean, are there other companies that are just out there doing this and I'm just blissfully unaware? Or is this kind of a big deal to actually replicate psilocybin and make it rapid onset shorter duration just as effective?
Ronan: I think it's a big deal. I think it's incredibly exciting that we have what will become the first new chemical entity psychedelic to get approval. All the other companies right now are focused on psilocybin or DMT, the classic molecules which have that big business problem of how you actually make money when it's a generic molecule. You don't get along time frame of data exclusivity with us. We're going to have a composition of matter patent on this, so we're going to have total control over FT104 after you get approval. It's probably about 11 or 12 years.
Ben: 11 or 12 years.
Ben: Jeez, do I need to delay this podcast coming out until then?
Ronan: No, there's a lot of other exciting stuff that we can talk about between now and then as well. No, but —
Ben: Jeez, 11 to 12 years. Holy cow. So really, you guys have developed this and you just got to sit on your hands for a dozen years?
Ronan: No, no, no, no, no, no. Sorry, I may have misspoken. You may have missed heard. So, we'll get exclusivity on it for about 12 years. So, we expect to get approval for this in 2026 probably. So, we're still got four and a half, five years.
Ronan: But once we have approval, no one else can do anything with FT104 for a further 10, 11, 12 years. Whereas, as soon as MDMA is approved, MAPS may have five years of data exclusivity before all the generic manufacturers can come in and start selling MDMA, just like MAPS is doing. So, we just got a better business ROI investment thesis on it.
Ben: Right, right. Okay. So, when you say approval because I know you live in Toronto, so I got to always take into account my northern neighbors. Your friend in Canada or the U.S.?
Ronan: No, I'm talking US. So, we'll be focused on FDA approval and Health Canada would be secondary.
Ben: So, in U.S., we could look at four years from now, something like this being approved and potentially available. And, when that happens, would it be very similar to something like the current ketamine experience in a Field Trip Clinic where someone could go into Field Trip? Technically, wouldn't even be able to access this molecule unless you guys have made it available to them in another situation, or somebody does some cheap, I don't know, overseas knock off of it. But basically, they could come in and have a legitimate customized FT104 experience in FT clinic.
Ronan: That's exactly right. We're not going to restrict it to Field Trip clinics, we want this drug to be available to everybody who needs it. So, we're going to make it accessible in any clinic doing good quality psychedelic therapies. But yeah, you could also come into Field Trip and have a field trip experience with the Field Trip drug. And, I think it's going to be amazing.
So, FT104 is obviously a big deal. The fact that you've opened up all these new locations now. And, I'll list them all. If folks go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/Ronan, I'll linked to Field Trip on my other podcast with Ronan, everything they're up to. So, that's a big deal rolling out in big cities. This FT104 work is a big deal.
Is there anything else going on behind the scenes that you're excited about when it comes to what's going on with Field Trip Health as far as what people can look for in these different cities where it's opening up?
Ronan: I mean, the clinical rollout is a big thing, FT104 is a big thing or app, Trip, it's growing like crazy. We've got some amazing content on there. We've got some other things kind of percolating in the works. But because we're a NASDAQ traded company, I can't disclose things until it's publicly disclosed through press release. But there's some other cool stuff happening within Field Trip. We're innovating on community and group therapy models. So, we're making it more accessible to people. We've launched training programs. So, therapists who are interested in becoming ketamine-trained and will become subsequently psychedelic-trained can do so. So, we're really trying to build the infrastructure to enable this psychedelic renaissance at least on a therapeutic level.
What's really exciting is we're building that brand as well because I think psychedelics, it becomes a wellness thing, it becomes a lifestyle thing. Certainly, there's a medical aspect of it, but we really wanted to be driving the conversation. We want to be up there talking with the Ben Greenfields of the world showing people how —
Ben: Oh, jeez. Thanks, bro.
Ronan: Of course. It's not about the medicine, it's about what you do with the insights that come out of the medicine and how you make your life better. Maybe that's protruding depression, but maybe it's coming up with creative business ideas or coming up with new content ideas or finding your reconnection to God, or your religion, or all of these wonderful things. That's what I'm really excited about. And, that's not medicine, that's about life, that's about humanity, that's about consciousness. That's what's really cool.
And so, we're doing a lot of things. Or really lay the groundwork to make this, something that's going to become available and relevant and meaningful across society. Having these conversations, opening people up, helping people see like the wonder and the mystical aspects of our life and then this existence. And so, we got a lot of little things percolating in that respect as well that you'll start to see as they start to roll out.
Ben: Yeah. There's, of course, all the chatter about, “Hey, we're just a bunch of people who have figured out how to make getting high legal and socially acceptable.” And, I run into that a lot. Especially for me, being an evangelical Christian, you all run into people at church and they're like, “How could you even use something like psilocybin? Isn't that the same as, whatever, being drunk?” In a very well-controlled set and setting, as you've just alluded to, the personal or professional or spiritual breakthroughs that one can experience when immersed in the use of one of these compounds can be absolutely life-transforming. I think, it's one of the reasons that God put these molecules on the planet in the first place is so that they could be used in moderation and responsibly in such settings.
And, the fact that we've figured out how to do it in a modern walk into the deck off of the Star Trek enterprise type of lush setting in a Field Trip Clinic, I think that that's amazing. A lot of people think he got to go be barefoot sitting in a bunch of poop in the Amazon, picking out a mushroom from the cow dung, or getting bitten by snakes to really make it a true experience. Often, your Peru adventure, but really I mean, if you can walk into a clean, safe, protected whitewash facility and have the music, and the soft robe, and the exact dose that you need and you're not worried about death or snake bikes or having to get an airplane 14 hours later to fly home across seven time zones. I mean, there's a lot of benefit to this. And, I think it's just really, really great what you guys are doing.
Ronan: Yeah, that's exactly it, which is like, yeah, it's awesome if you want to fly to Peru and do that so0called authentic experience with shamans in Peru or wherever you want to. Wonderful, do it. That's amazing. But for the other 99.7% of people who that's not an option for whether economically or just lifestyle-wise, we want to make this something where psychedelics, and the transcendence, and the insights, and the spirit and all of these wonderful things that come out of psychedelic experiences can be a part of their lives. Maybe they don't dedicate their lives to it like shamans do, but if it becomes a nice jump to your life and make your life better. Even one or 2% better, if we can make the lives of all Canadians and all Americans 1 or 2% better, 1 or 2% more empathetic or creative, god, the world would be an entirely different place.
Ronan: Speaking to your Christian evangelical roots that, have you read “The Immortality Key” by Brian Muraresku?
Ben: Yeah. Yeah, Brian's friend of mine.
Ronan: Yeah. Okay, cool.
Ben: That's a great book. And, I mean, again, back to the whole Christianity thing. If you read the Bible because I'm actually taking my family through the Book of Revelations right now. A good story of the end times. And, if you look at the beginning of the planet from a creationist standpoint, started off as a garden, but the end isn't a garden, it's a garden city. And so, this idea of tying ancient wisdom into modern science, the idea of 100 years from now, a beautiful, lush landscape of vertical gardens growing on rooftops, and this type of clinics where you can go in and have the same experience. Your ancestors would have been digging around in cow pies to do out in a muddy field thousands of years ago. But now, you're in this type of more urban safe city type of setting. I love that whole idea just because we're transferring from a garden into a garden city doesn't mean we need to have chronological snobbery about the way things used to be back in the good old days when we'd strap barbed wire to our feets and walk uphill both ways in the snow to get to school. It's like, well, actually I get my Tesla now and that's great.
Ronan: That's exactly right. And, I'm so glad you mentioned the “Star Trek: Enterprise” because in an hour and a half, I'm actually recording with William Shatner on his show. I don't understand talking about this exact subject, so I'm going from the Christianity conversation all the way to “Star Trek: Enterprise” conversation in a single day. And, it's pretty freaking cool to be able to do that.
Ben: Well, tell William Shatner I said hello. And, one of my family's growing up favorite activities to do because my father was a paramedic was we would all gather round at dinner and watch William Shatner on “911” and watch horrific ambulance accidents and people getting injured horrifically. Well, he stops taking our faces. I actually recall William Shatner more fondly from that than I do from Star Trek because my parents weren't Trekkies. But tell him hi, nonetheless.
And, Ronan, thanks for coming on the show and for doing everything that you're doing over a Field Trip Health. It's been a pleasure just watching your journey and being involved with it.
Ronan: Thanks, man. Thanks for having me on. Thank you for being an investor, and a supporter, and an advocate. Everything you do helps, and we're all working together to make this world a better place. So, it's really awesome to be able to count on you as a friend, as an investor, as all of these wonderful things. So, thank you.
Ben: It's my pleasure, man. I like to support folks who are up to good things. So, for those of you listening in, go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/Ronan, R-O-N-A-N. That's where the shownotes are. That's where you can list my first podcast with Ronan, so we could hunt down a Field Trip Health, so you could go listen to Ronan's podcast field tripping. And, I am off to — actually, I got another interview coming up myself as well. So, you go talk to William Shatner. I'll go talk to whoever I'm talking to. And, I'll see you on the flip side, man.
Ronan: Awesome, buddy. Thanks so much.
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Believing that you should never hesitate to trade your cow for a handful of magic beans…
…my friend and my guest on today's podcast—Ronan Levy—has built a career out of doing things that others say cannot be done.
Ronan Levy started his career as a securities lawyer at Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP but left that after realizing he was much too creative for the profession of law. Since then, Ronan Levy has helped launch businesses across a number of industries from gold, to cannabis, and, most recently, in psychedelics where he is a co-founder and the Executive Chairman of Field Trip Health Ltd. (NASDAQ: FTRP), a global leader in the development and delivery of psychedelic therapies. When not being thoroughly incorrigible, Ronan Levy lives in Toronto with his wife and two children. He's also the host of the podcast “Field Tripping,” on which I've been a guest in this episode.
Ronan Levy first joined me on my podcast for the episode ‘Microdosing, Biohacking Plant Medicines, Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy, & More – How “Field Trip Health” Works For Ketamine, MDMA, DMT, Psilocybin, & Beyond!“, in which we discussed Field Trip Health, Inc., the world's first mental wellness company focused on psychedelics and psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, which at the time was opening the first medical centers—first in Toronto, then in Chicago, New York, Seattle, Houston, Atlanta, Stamford, and LA—dedicated exclusively to the administration of psychedelics, in a “spa-like” setting.
During our discussion, you'll discover:
-A brief overview of Field Trip Health and its unsexy products…07:06
- Previous podcast with Ronan Levy:
- FT104 – Field Trip's 100 series 4th molecule
- Ben's appearance on Ronan's Field Tripping Podcast
- Field Trip is expanding quickly in lieu of the psychedelic renaissance
-Various ways Field Trip Health provides therapy and psychedelic journeys…13:45
- Trip App Ronan Levy mentions
- The app assists in understanding the products and various treatments in a clinical setting
- Legality issues make it difficult to recommend specific parameters on use
- The app has various tracks at different lengths for different types of journeys
- East Forest music
- Voice notes to record your thoughts and memos during your journey
-How a clinical experience differs from a home or app experience…16:13
- Wired magazine article that Ben mentions
- Ketamine is currently the only legal psychedelic in the U.S.
- Safe environment with a therapist with you the whole time
- Hang out after the session until the medicine wears off
- You want to stay in that space as long as possible
-Psychedelics beside ketamine we may see legalized in the near future…20:20
- MDMA assisted therapy for PTSD treatment, and eventually for anybody dealing with depression and anxiety
- Psilocybin in California, Canada, and more
- LSD (more challenging because of longer trip time)
-Cost considerations for psychedelic journeys now and in the future…23:36
- Ketamine experience is currently $750 soup to nuts
- Cost is comparable to a therapist with conventional treatment
- Costs of LSD or psilocybin treatment will depend on the cost of the drugs
- Lots of incentives for insurance companies to cover such treatments once the drugs are legalized
-Ronan's own experience with a Field Trip clinic…28:22
- Video of Ronan asking Elon Musk a question about psychedelics
- Like seeing the beating heart of the universe
- It's not all bliss and wonder; it's a functional life force
- People often report a transcendent, meeting-God type experience with ketamine
- Intramuscular injection vs. an IV gives a more intense ride with neurobiology benefits that go with it
-The history of Field Trip Health's psilocybin-mimicking drug…38:12
- FT104 is considered a “prodrug”
- 70% report cure of PTSD in clinical MDMA trials
- Generating an ROI without a patent is very difficult
- Logistical issues often make clinical treatments impractical
- FT104 mimics the effects of psilocybin
- Cut the trip in half, without affecting the therapeutic outcomes
- Operates on the same receptors as psilocybin, but doesn't bind for as long a period of time, and binds more quickly
- Faster onset, shorter duration, faster offset
- Microdosing FT104 isn't a high priority at the moment
- FT104 is still being tested only on animals
- FDA approval is expected in the next 4-5 years
-Other things about Field Trip and psychedelics Ronan is excited about…51:20
- Community programs
- Training programs are forthcoming
- It's not about the medicine, it's about how the medicine improves the lives of those who take it
- The Immortality Key by Brian Muraresku
-And much more…
- Keep up on Ben's LIVE appearances by following bengreenfieldfitness.com/calendar
Resources from this episode:
– Ronan Levy:
- Field Trip Health
- Microdosing, Biohacking Plant Medicines, Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy, & More – How “Field Trip Health” Works For Ketamine, MDMA, DMT, Psilocybin, & Beyond!
- Field Trip Health Ltd. Provides Update on FT-104, Its Next Generation Psychedelic Molecule in Development
- Field Trip Health Ltd. to Pursue Treatment Resistant Depression and Postpartum Depression as Indications for FT-104
- On Your Next Psychedelic Journey, Let an App Be Your Guide
- Ben Greenfield On the Field Tripping Podcast
– Other Resources:
- The Immortality Key by Brian Muraresku
- Trip App
- East Forest Music
- Long-term follow-up outcomes of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for treatment of PTSD: a longitudinal pooled analysis of six phase 2 trials
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