Clerkenwell Health calling for volunteers with PTSD to trial new psychoactive drug

By Liza Laws

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images
© Getty Images

Related tags PTSD mental health Clinical trials Psychedelic Research Patient recruitment

Clerkenwell Health, a company that delivers clinical trials for the treatment of complex mental health volunteers for trials into the use of psychoactive medications for treating PTSD, is in search of 40 ex-military volunteers.

To find the 40, it will need to screen up to 1,000 people which is why several leading veterans’ charities have joined forces for this mission.

Charities including Head Up and re:mind are joining MQ Mental Health Research in seeking ex-service personnel who might benefit from an innovative treatment, combining the use of an investigational study drug with guidance from an expert team of doctors, researchers, and therapists.

Jason Fox, who appeared on the Channel 4 television series SAS: Who Dares Wins, ​whose 20-year career in the military came to an end when he was medically discharged with PTSD, joined veterans' charities at an event to launch this recruitment campaign.

Charities took part in a round table discussion to share views and hear about the latest research into the potential effectiveness of psychedelics and psychoactive medications in treating PTSD.

Jason Fox said: “If this sort of therapy had been available when I was diagnosed with PTSD after serving in the Marines and Special Forces for 20 years, I would have been open to trying it. It could have potentially sped up my recovery and may even have enabled me to continue to serve.

“I would urge any fellow veterans who are struggling with PTSD and who might benefit to volunteer for this trial. If it helps people to live a better life, then it is 100% worth it. Society has moved on a lot and there is less stigma around mental health. But individuals still have personal stigma about admitting what they might have and what they have been through – especially in a military environment.”

Self-help app for trauma and PTSD

Also speaking at the event were Simon Moloney, a former sniper in the British Army who was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross in 2013, and Freya Hickman, survivor of the London Bridge terror attack in 2017 and founder of re;mind​, a self-help app specifically for trauma and PTSD.

Clerkenwell Health is delivering clinical trials using methylone, a medication with similar effects to MDMA. Initial results from parallel trials of methylone worldwide have shown that all patients were considered much or very much improved by the end of the study.

PTSD is common in both serving personnel and those who have left the armed forces, with the rate of PTSD among UK veterans estimated​ to be 7.4%. This is compared to 4% among the general public.

psychedelics small GettyImages-1292524604 (1)

Despite its significant impact on the veteran community, relatively little has been done to advance research into treating PTSD and its prevalence across service and ex-service personnel.

According to Cynthia Geppert, whose work has been published in an article called Psychedelics and the Military: What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been in the National Library of Medicine, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) was serendipitously developed in 1938 by Sandoz chemist, Albert Hoffman.

He developed LSD while working on a fungus that grew on grain. However, the drug’s psychoactive properties were not discovered until 1943. It was about ten years later as the Cold War chilled international relations, that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) began conducting experiments on military personnel in the MKUltra program using LSD, electroshock, hypnosis, and other techniques to develop a mind control program before its rivals did.

PTSD treatment barely progressed in decades

Dr Iain Jordan, clinical director at Clerkenwell Health expressed his frustration that treatment for PTSD has barely progressed in decades. He said all of the currently available treatments are variations on exposure therapy, which is not effective for enough people.

He said: “There is a growing body of research which suggests that drugs like MDMA, when combined with therapy, can be highly effective at treating PTSD. It’s the most exciting thing that’s happened in psychology and psychiatry in my 22 years of being a doctor. It’s an opportunity to do things differently.

“Our trial, which uses a medication called methylone, has shown promise in alleviating the symptoms of PTSD within four sessions. We’re determined to advance research into PTSD in veterans’ communities, and in doing so allow people’s bodies to heal, their minds to heal, and to go on and lead fulfilling lives.”

Evidence that medications, such as MDMA could hold promising potential for treating PTSD is gaining traction. In the US, a clinical trial carried out by Lykos Therapeutics (formerly MAPS Public Benefit Corporation) found that MDMA-assisted therapy could be effective in reducing symptoms of PTSD. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is expected to approve MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD this year, likely stipulating that it should be accompanied by psychological therapy.

The success of clinical trials in the US, and new trials opening in the UK, could result in regulators approving the use of medications such as MDMA for treating PTSD. A range of psychedelic and psychoactive compounds are currently progressing through clinical development, and it’s hoped that the UK will be able to provide access to these novel treatments once they’ve been approved.

Clerkenwell Health’s vision is to fundamentally change the face of mental healthcare by building the clinical research expertise and care delivery platform needed for a new wave of mental health and neurological treatments – including psychedelic medicines, psychological therapies, and novel non-medication technologies.

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