People working for the Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps company are now able to access psychedelic-assisted treatment as part of a healthcare benefits expansion that aligns with the pro-reform goals of the company’s CEO David Bronner.
On Monday, Dr. Bronner’s announced the partnership with the non-profit healthcare organization Enthea, which specializes in ketamine-assisted therapy. Experts view ketamine as an effective treatment option for conditions such as treatment-resistant depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“We’re hoping that in providing this for our employees, not only are we going to provide a really necessary tools for them—COVID has been difficult for a lot of people—but inspiring other businesses to similarly look into partnering with Enthea and provide the same kind of psychedelic-assisted therapy benefit, starting with ketamine, but soon enough [it] will be MDMA and psilocybin as well,” Bronner told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview on Monday.
“The drug war is an abysmal failure on so many fronts,” he said. “Fifty years of this drug war that’s completely warped a policy and stigmatized psychedelic healing—we just need to move past all that and treat addiction as a health problem and get people who are struggling with substance use disorder the help they need without further traumatizing them.”
The company’s new partnership makes sense, given that Bronner and the company have invested in numerous drug policy reform initiatives across the country. He provided a significant financial contribution to the successful 2020 campaign to make Oregon the first state in the U.S. to legalize psilocybin therapy, for example.
“The health and well-being of our employees is the primary driver in how we think about benefits and compensation,” Michael Bronner, president of Dr. Bronner’s, said in a press release. “Offering coverage for Ketamine Assisted Therapy is in the interest of providing tools to our workforce to have the best quality of life and best options for mental health care.”
“Our family and company are no strangers to depression and anxiety. We are deeply concerned about the mental health crisis society is facing, especially in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said. “Considering all our advocacy on this issue, this employee benefit is the next logical step.”
Ketamine has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for us as an anesthetic and is not currently specifically approved for any psychiatric disorders, though doctors are able to administer it for off-label purposes like they can with other pharmaceuticals. There is also an FDA-approved nasal spray called esketamine that produces similar effects and is authorized for the treatment of treatment-resistant depression and is accordingly classified under Schedule III.
There are ketamine clinics operating in states from Alabama to Washington, but not all insurance companies cover the treatment.
Dr. Bronner’s began including ketamine therapy in its healthcare package on January 1 of this year. Enthea also plans to expand its psychedelics treatment toolbox to include MDMA and psilocybin pending the substances’ approval by FDA.
“We are particularly proud of this unique partnership and we applaud Dr. Bronner’s for showing the way for other companies,” Lia Mix, CEO of Enthea, said. “Psychedelic Assisted Therapy holds tremendous promise for addressing our society’s mental health crisis and improving workforce well-being.”
“High-performing and forward-thinking companies know the importance of employee mental health,” Mix said. “We also see the best talent attracted to companies with next-generation benefits like the one implemented by Dr. Bronner’s. We anticipate both human and financial return on these organizations’ investment in covering psychedelic healthcare.”
Dan Rome, chief medical officer at Enthea, said that the “effectiveness of Ketamine Assisted Therapy has been demonstrated through multiple research studies and more than twenty years of accumulated clinical experience.”
“Numerous studies show that, among individuals with chronic health conditions, those who also suffer from mental health disorders are two to three times more costly to the healthcare system than those without,” he said. “Our society is in dire need of more effective treatments for mental health conditions, to reduce human suffering as well as the economic toll on our overburdened health care system.”
The heads of FDA and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) coauthored a letter in 2019 describing the status of research into psychedelic drugssaying that substances like ketamine, MDMA, psilocybin and ibogaine present an “opportunity to provide treatment to patients while expanding psychotherapy treatment options.”
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Director Nora Volkow said last year that existing research on the benefits of ketamine for treatment-resistant depression has been an “eye opener” and that more studies are on the way. “We have been funding research that is ongoing—on ketamine for opiate treatment and also ketamine for pain,” she said.
“We need to learn from what what the evidence is showing us,” she added. “If we can use ketamine for the treatment of severe depression in a way that is safe, this is an example of really that we can use drugs that we thought were dangerous and use them in ways that are therapeutic.”
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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Psychonaught.