OPEN Foundation

Other substances

Post-Marketing Safety Concerns with Esketamine: A Disproportionality Analysis of Spontaneous Reports Submitted to the FDA Adverse Event Reporting System

Abstract

Introduction: Esketamine nasal spray received approval for treatment-resistant depression in March 2019.

Objective: Using the FDA Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS) database (March 2019-March 2020), we analysed esketamine-related adverse events (AEs) to detect and characterize relevant safety signals.

Methods: We used the consolidated case/non-case approach to estimate the reporting odds ratio (ROR) and information component (IC) with relevant confidence intervals (95% CI) for esketamine-related AEs with ≥4 counts. Comparisons between serious and non-serious AEs were performed using non-parametric tests.

Results: The FAERS database contained 962 cases of esketamine-related AEs, with signals detected for several AEs, such as dissociation (ROR = 1,612.64, 95% CI = 1,354.63, 1,919.79; IC = 8.19, 95% CI = 7.96, 8.35), sedation (ROR = 238.46, 95% CI = 202.98, 280.15; IC = 7, 95% CI = 6.75, 7.18), feeling drunk (ROR = 96.17, 95% CI = 61.42, 150.57; IC = 4.84, 95% CI = 4.09, 5.36), suicidal ideation (ROR = 24.03, 95% CI = 18.72, 30.84; IC = 4.31, 95% CI = 3.9, 4.61), and completed suicide (ROR = 5.75, 95% CI = 3.18, 10.41; IC = 2.25, 95% CI = 1.23, 2.94). Signals for suicidal and self-injurious ideation, but not suicide attempt and completed suicide, remained when comparing esketamine to venlafaxine. Females and patients receiving antidepressant polypharmacy, co-medication with mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, benzodiazepines, or somatic medications were more likely to suffer from serious versus non-serious AEs (χ2 = 125.29, p < 0.001, χ2 = 9.08, p = 0.003, χ2 = 8.14, p = 0.004, χ2 = 19.48, p < 0.001, χ2 = 25.62, p < 0.001, and χ2 = 16.79, p < 0.001, respectively).

Conclusions: Esketamine may carry a clear potential for serious AEs, which deserves urgent clarification by means of further prospective studies.

Gastaldon, C., Raschi, E., Kane, J. M., Barbui, C., & Schoretsanitis, G. (2021). Post-marketing safety concerns with esketamine: a disproportionality analysis of spontaneous reports submitted to the FDA adverse event reporting system. Psychotherapy and psychosomatics90(1), 41-48; 10.1159/000510703
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Structure of a Hallucinogen-Activated Gq-Coupled 5-HT 2A Serotonin Receptor

Abstract

Hallucinogens like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin, and substituted N-benzyl phenylalkylamines are widely used recreationally with psilocybin being considered as a therapeutic for many neuropsychiatric disorders including depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. How psychedelics mediate their actions-both therapeutic and hallucinogenic-are not understood, although activation of the 5-HT2A serotonin receptor (HTR2A) is key. To gain molecular insights into psychedelic actions, we determined the active-state structure of HTR2A bound to 25-CN-NBOH-a prototypical hallucinogen-in complex with an engineered Gαq heterotrimer by cryoelectron microscopy (cryo-EM). We also obtained the X-ray crystal structures of HTR2A complexed with the arrestin-biased ligand LSD or the inverse agonist methiothepin. Comparisons of these structures reveal determinants responsible for HTR2A-Gαq protein interactions as well as the conformational rearrangements involved in active-state transitions. Given the potential therapeutic actions of hallucinogens, these findings could accelerate the discovery of more selective drugs for the treatment of a variety of neuropsychiatric disorders.

Kim, K., Che, T., Panova, O., DiBerto, J. F., Lyu, J., Krumm, B. E., Wacker, D., Robertson, M. J., Seven, A. B., Nichols, D. E., Shoichet, B. K., Skiniotis, G., & Roth, B. L. (2020). Structure of a Hallucinogen-Activated Gq-Coupled 5-HT2A Serotonin Receptor. Cell, 182(6), 1574–1588.e19. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2020.08.024

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Beyond ecstasy: Alternative entactogens to 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine with potential applications in psychotherapy

Abstract

The last two decades have seen a revival of interest in the entactogen 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine (MDMA) as an adjunct to psychotherapy, particularly for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. While clinical results are highly promising, and MDMA is expected to be approved as a treatment in the near future, it is currently the only compound in its class of action that is being actively investigated as a medicine. This lack of alternatives to MDMA may prove detrimental to patients who do not respond well to the particular mechanism of action of MDMA or whose treatment calls for a modification of MDMA’s effects. For instance, patients with existing cardiovascular conditions or with a prolonged history of stimulant drug use may not fit into the current model of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, and could benefit from alternative drugs. This review examines the existing literature on a host of entactogenic drugs, which may prove to be useful alternatives in the future, paying particularly close attention to any neurotoxic risks, neuropharmacological mechanism of action and entactogenic commonalities with MDMA. The substances examined derive from the 1,3-benzodioxole, cathinone, benzofuran, aminoindane, indole and amphetamine classes. Several compounds from these classes are identified as potential alternatives to MDMA.

Oeri H. E. (2021). Beyond ecstasy: Alternative entactogens to 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine with potential applications in psychotherapy. Journal of psychopharmacology (Oxford, England), 35(5), 512–536. https://doi.org/10.1177/0269881120920420

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Positive effects of psychedelics on depression and wellbeing scores in individuals reporting an eating disorder

Abstract

Purpose: Psychedelic therapy is showing promise for a broad range of mental health conditions, indicative of a transdiagnostic action. While the efficacy of symptom-focused treatments for eating disorders (EDs) is limited, improved mental health and psychological wellbeing are thought to contribute to greater treatment outcomes. This study provides the first quantitative exploration of the psychological effects of psychedelics in those reporting an ED diagnosis.

Methods: Prospective, online data were collected from individuals planning to take a psychedelic drug. Twenty-eight participants reporting a lifetime ED diagnosis completed measures of depressive symptomology (Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomology; QIDS-SR16) and psychological wellbeing (Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale; WEMWBS) 1-2 weeks before, and 2 weeks after a psychedelic experience. Twenty-seven of these participants also completed a measure of emotional breakthrough [Emotional Breakthrough Inventory (EBI)] in relation to the acute psychedelic experience.

Results: Bayesian t tests demonstrated overwhelming evidence for improvements in depression and wellbeing scores following the psychedelic experience. Marginal evidence was also found for a correlation between emotional breakthrough and the relevant mental health improvements.

Conclusion: These findings provide supportive evidence for positive psychological aftereffects of a psychedelic experience that are relevant to the treatment of EDs. It is hoped that this will encourage further research and will bolster initiatives to directly examine the safety and efficacy of psychedelic assisted therapy as a treatment of EDs in future clinical trials.

Level of evidence: Level III, cohort study.

Spriggs, M. J., Kettner, H., & Carhart-Harris, R. L. (2021). Positive effects of psychedelics on depression and wellbeing scores in individuals reporting an eating disorder. Eating and weight disorders : EWD, 26(4), 1265–1270. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40519-020-01000-8

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The psychoactive aminoalkylbenzofuran derivatives, 5-APB and 6-APB, mimic the effects of 3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA) on monoamine transmission in male rats

Abstract

Rationale: The nonmedical use of new psychoactive substances (NPS) is a worldwide public health concern. The so-called “benzofury” compounds, 5-(2-aminopropyl)benzofuran (5-APB) and 6-(2-aminopropyl)benzofuran (6-APB), are NPS with stimulant-like properties in human users. These substances are known to interact with monoamine transporters and 5-HT receptors in transfected cells, but less is known about their effects in animal models.

Methods: Here, we used in vitro monoamine transporter assays in rat brain synaptosomes to characterize the effects of 5-APB and 6-APB, together with their N-methyl derivatives 5-MAPB and 6-MAPB, in comparison with 3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA) and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA). In vivo neurochemical and behavioral effects of 5-APB (0.3 and 1.0 mg/kg, i.v.) and 6-APB (0.3 and 1.0 mg/kg, i.v.) were assessed in comparison with MDA (1.0 and 3.0 mg/kg, i.v.) using microdialysis sampling in the nucleus accumbens of conscious male rats.

Results: All four benzofuran derivatives were substrate-type releasers at dopamine transporters (DAT), norepinephrine transporters (NET), and serotonin transporters (SERT) with nanomolar potencies, similar to the profile of effects produced by MDA and MDMA. However, the benzofurans were at least threefold more potent than MDA and MDMA at evoking transporter-mediated release. Like MDA, both benzofurans induced dose-related elevations in extracellular dopamine and serotonin in the brain, but benzofurans were more potent than MDA. The benzofuran derivatives also induced profound behavioral activation characterized by forward locomotion which lasted for at least 2 h post-injection.

Conclusions: Overall, benzofurans are more potent than MDA in vitro and in vivo, producing sustained stimulant-like effects in rats. These data suggest that benzofuran-type compounds may have abuse liability and could pose risks for adverse effects, especially if used in conjunction with abused drugs or medications which enhance monoamine transmission in the brain.

Brandt, S. D., Walters, H. M., Partilla, J. S., Blough, B. E., Kavanagh, P. V., & Baumann, M. H. (2020). The psychoactive aminoalkylbenzofuran derivatives, 5-APB and 6-APB, mimic the effects of 3, 4-methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA) on monoamine transmission in male rats. Psychopharmacology237(12), 3703-3714; 10.1007/s00213-020-05648-z

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Post-Psychedelic Reductions in Experiential Avoidance Are Associated With Decreases in Depression Severity and Suicidal Ideation

Abstract

Psychedelic therapy shows promise as a novel intervention for a wide range of mental health concerns but its therapeutic action is incompletely understood. In line with acceptance and commitment therapy’s (ACT’s) transdiagnostic model, qualitative research has suggested that reductions in experiential avoidance are an important component of therapeutic outcomes associated with psychedelics. However, limited research has quantitatively explored the association between decreases in experiential avoidance and therapeutic outcomes associated with psychedelics. Therefore, in two prospective studies, using convenience samples of individuals with plans to use a psychedelic, we explored the impact of psychedelic use on experiential avoidance, depression severity, and suicidal ideation, as well as relationships between changes in these outcomes. Participants (Study 1, N=104; Study 2, N=254) completed self-report questionnaires of depression severity, suicidal ideation, and experiential avoidance: 1) before using a psychedelic (in ceremonial and non-ceremonial contexts), as well as 2) 2-weeks and 3) 4-weeks after psychedelic use. Across both studies, repeated measures ANOVAs indicated significant decreases in experiential avoidance, depression severity, and suicidal ideation after psychedelic use. Furthermore, decreases in experiential avoidance were significantly associated with decreases in depression severity and suicidal ideation. These results suggest that psychedelics may lead to significant decreases in experiential avoidance, depression severity, and suicidal ideation. Additionally, these findings imply that reduced experiential avoidance may be a transdiagnostic mechanism mediating treatment success within psychedelic therapy. We conclude that integrating psychedelics with psychotherapeutic interventions that target experiential avoidance (e.g. ACT) may enhance therapeutic outcomes.

Zeifman, R. J., Wagner, A. C., Watts, R., Kettner, H., Mertens, L. J., & Carhart-Harris, R. L. (2020). Post-Psychedelic Reductions in Experiential Avoidance Are Associated With Decreases in Depression Severity and Suicidal Ideation. Frontiers in psychiatry, 11, 782. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2020.00782

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Psychedelic Treatment for Trauma-Related Psychological and Cognitive Impairment Among US Special Operations Forces Veterans

U.S. Special Operations Forces Veterans are at increased risk for a variety of mental health problems and cognitive impairment associated with military service. Current treatments are lacking in effectiveness and adherence. Therefore, this study examined psychedelic treatment with ibogaine and 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine for trauma-related psychological and cognitive impairment among U.S. Special Operations Forces Veterans.

We conducted a survey of Veterans who completed a specific psychedelic clinical program in Mexico between 2017 and 2019. Questions probed retrospective reports of mental health and cognitive functioning during the 30 days before and 30 days after treatment. A total of 65 people completed treatment during this time frame and were eligible for contact. Of these, 51 (78%) completed the survey and were included in data analyses (mean age = 40; male = 96%; married = 55%; Caucasian/White = 92%; Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom Service = 96%).

Results indicated significant and very large reductions in retrospective report of suicidal ideation (p < .001; d = −1.9), cognitive impairment (p < .001; d = −2.8), and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (p < .001; d = −3.6), depression (p < .001; d = −3.7), and anxiety (p < .001; d = −3.1). Results also showed a significant and large increase in retrospective report of psychological flexibility (p < .001; d = 2.9) from before-to-after the psychedelic treatment. Increases in the retrospective report of psychological flexibility were strongly associated with retrospective report of reductions in cognitive impairment, and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety (rs range −0.61 to −0.75; p < .001). Additionally, most participants rated the psychedelic experiences as one of the top five personally meaningful (84%), spiritually significant (88%), and psychologically insightful (86%) experiences of their lives.
Limitations: Several limitations should be considered including the retrospective, self-report, survey design of the study, and the lack of randomization and blinding, thus making these finding preliminary.

U.S. Special Operations Forces Veterans may have unique treatment needs because of the sequela of problems associated with repeated trauma exposure and the nature of the exposure. Psychedelic-assisted therapy with these under-researched psychedelics may hold unique promise for this population. However, controlled studies are needed to determine whether this treatment is efficacious in relieving mental health and cognitive impairment among U.S. Special Operations Forces Veterans.

Davis, A. K., Averill, L. A., Sepeda, N. D., Barsuglia, J. P., & Amoroso, T. (2020). Psychedelic Treatment for Trauma-Related Psychological and Cognitive Impairment Among US Special Operations Forces Veterans. Chronic Stress4, 2470547020939564; 10.1177/2470547020939564
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In vitro structure-activity relationship determination of 30 psychedelic new psychoactive substances by means of β-arrestin 2 recruitment to the serotonin 2A receptor

Abstract

Serotonergic psychedelics, substances exerting their effects primarily through the serotonin 2A receptor (5-HT2AR), continue to comprise a substantial portion of reported new psychoactive substances (NPS). The exact mechanisms of action of psychedelics still remain to be elucidated further, and certain pathways remain largely unexplored on a molecular level for this group of compounds. A systematic comparison of substances belonging to different subclasses, monitoring the receptor-proximal β-arrestin 2 recruitment, is lacking. Based on a previously reported in vitro bioassay employing functional complementation of a split nanoluciferase to monitor β-arrestin 2 recruitment to the 5-HT2AR, we here report on the setup of a stable HEK 293 T cell-based bioassay. Following verification of the performance of this new stable cell system as compared to a system based on transient transfection, the stable expression system was deemed suitable for the pharmacological characterization of psychedelic NPS. Subsequently, it was applied for the in vitro assessment of the structure-activity relationship of a set of 30 substances, representing different subclasses of phenylalkylamine psychedelics, among which 12 phenethylamine derivatives (2C-X), 7 phenylisopropylamines (DOx) and 11 N-benzylderivatives (25X-NB). The resulting potency and efficacy values provide insights into the structure-activity relationship of the tested compounds, overall confirm findings observed with other reported in vitro assays, and even show a significant correlation with estimated common doses. This approach, in which a large series of psychedelic NPS belonging to different subclasses is comparatively tested, using a same assay setup, monitoring a receptor-proximal event, not only gives pharmacological insights, but may also allow prioritization of legal actions related to the most potent -and potentially dangerous- compounds.

Pottie, E., Cannaert, A., & Stove, C. P. (2020). In vitro structure–activity relationship determination of 30 psychedelic new psychoactive substances by means of β-arrestin 2 recruitment to the serotonin 2A receptor. Archives of Toxicology94(10), 3449-3460; 10.1007/s00204-020-02836-w
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Spotlight commentary: REBUS and the anarchic brain

Abstract

In ‘REBUS and the Anarchic Brain: Towards a Unified Model of the Brain Action of Psychedelics’, Carhart-Harris and Friston offer an important analysis of what the predictive processing framework has to offer our understanding of psychedelic experiences, providing an invaluable ground for psychedelic psychiatry. While applauding this, we encourage paying greater attention to contextual factors shaping extreme experiences and their sequalae, and suggest that the authors’ comparisons with certain non-psychedelic altered states may overlook more informative parallels that can be drawn elsewhere. Addressing both points will prove fruitful, ultimately, in identifying the mechanisms of action of greatest interest in psychedelic experiences.
Carhart-Harris, R. L., & Friston, K. J. (2019). REBUS and the anarchic brain: toward a unified model of the brain action of psychedelics. Pharmacological reviews71(3), 316-344., https://doi.org/10.1093/nc/niaa007
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Mystical Experiences in Retrospective Reports of First Times Using a Psychedelic in Finland

Abstract

Despite their acutely inebriating and sometimes unpleasant effects, some people report positive changes in life satisfaction, well-being, or mental health after taking psychedelic drugs. One explanation may be the ability of psychedelics to trigger mystical-type experiences. We examined the validity, reliability, and factor structure of a novel Finnish translation of the Revised Mystical Experiences Questionnaire (MEQ30) among 288 people retrospectively reporting on their first time using a psychedelic. We found evidence for internal consistency reliability and preliminary evidence for criterion and discriminant validity of the Finnish MEQ30. A four-factor structure with factors for mystical qualities, positive mood, transcendence, and ineffability had the best, fair to reasonable fit to the data. MEQ30 scores and having a full mystical experience were highly associated with describing the experience as mystical, spiritual, or religious, and as personally significant, and somewhat associated with the experience being sad or difficult. Mystical experiences were especially associated with positive changes in relationships with nature and oneself and in creativity. Mystical experiences were more common with larger doses. Increasing research suggests mystical-type experiences to relate to positive changes after taking psychedelics. The Finnish MEQ30 is able to tap into relevant information about this aspect of people’s psychedelic experiences.
Kangaslampi, S., Hausen, A., & Rauteenmaa, T. (2020). Mystical Experiences in Retrospective Reports of First Times Using a Psychedelic in Finland. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2020.1767321
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