Brain Injury Awareness Month: New Hope With Psychedelic Medicine

  • Each year, millions of people across North America suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI), with many of these injuries devolving into post-concussion syndrome
  • Psychedelic medicine is shaping up as a potent (potential) tool in producing superior treatment outcomes






March is Brain Injury Awareness Month in the United States (in Canada, it is June that is set aside). Why set aside a month for “awareness”?

Each year, an estimated 2.8 million Americans suffer a “traumatic brain injury” (TBI), with most of these injuries corresponding to what people know more commonly as concussions. However, that number alone does little to capture the magnitude of the problem.

Apart from the significant risk of fatality from such injuries, TBIs (potentially) produce a long and frightening list of symptoms for those experiencing even a moderately severe injury.

Severe headaches, cognitive dysfunction, extreme sensitivity to visual/auditory stimuli, mood disorders and personality change are just some of the acute symptoms for which sufferers may be afflicted. When such symptoms persist beyond a moderate recovery period (generally a matter of weeks), this is deemed to be post-concussion syndrome (PCS).

Recoveries can be long and currently many sufferers of TBIs are unable to live symptom-free. This can restrict or even prevent people from working. Debilitating.

For the person suffering the TBI, the injury is not only debilitating but also frightening. Few maladies are more disturbing than when one’s own brain is obviously (and uncontrollably) malfunctioning.

Even for those who are around people dealing with TBI and/or post-concussion syndrome, it can be difficult to understand what is happening.
 
Brain Injury Awareness Month falls in the month of March in the U.S. These injuries comprise fall-related damage to the brain, forceful impact to the head, or penetration by sharp objects. This is an issue that especially affects older people, with a higher proportion of fall-related brain injuries resulting in death among people above 75 years of age. At least 2.8 million people in the U.S. sustain traumatic brain injuries per year. Most people are at a loss of how to be around these injured people, which is part of the reason why Brain Injury Awareness month was created.

The “mission” to find better treatments for TBI

One person for whom Brain Injury Awareness Month has special significance is Daniel Carcillo, Founder and CEO of Wesana Health (CAN:WESA / US:WSNAF). Wesana is “on a mission to help people transcend barriers in mental health”, and is one of several public companies with psychedelics-related R&D initiatives directed toward TBI.

For Carcillo, it’s a personal mission. The CEO is also “a survivor” of multiple concussions and post-concussion syndrome.

Hockey fans will recognize Daniel Carcillo as a former NHL player who played in 429 games spread across nine seasons. Several of those seasons were injury-shortened, with Carcillo’s multiple concussions (and ongoing symptoms) finally forcing him into retirement.

Carcillo is more than just a survivor. He’s now a success story, with a clean brain scan to point to in his recovery from post-concussion syndrome.

In speaking with Psychedelic Stock Watch, Carcillo indicated that he tried anything and everything in the realm of conventional medicine – with limited success. Then, with nothing to lose, he began “unconventional” therapies.

Carcillo began taking “functional mushrooms”, non-psychoactive herbal supplements with adaptogenic properties that have become increasingly popular with health-conscious consumers. He also turned to “magic mushrooms”, specifically psilocybin, the primary psychoactive ingredient.

Before looking at psychedelic medicine as an answer for TBI, it’s instructive to review the host of conventional therapies that people like Daniel Carcillo and others have tried in attempting to rehabilitate themselves.

Conventional therapies for TBI: many tools, no solutions

With the symptoms from TBI/concussion so pernicious and rehabilitation often elusive, modern medicine has tried a lot of approaches in treating concussions.

Drugs such as SSRI antidepressants have been used to treat the personality/mood disorders associated with TBI. As many know, these antidepressants are medications with minimal efficacy – and many unpleasant and even dangerous side effects.

Then there are a long list of physically-based therapies, including: acupuncture, hyperbaric chambers and float tanks, and even “transcranial direct current stimulation”. These therapies all have two things in common: they are general therapeutic tools, and none of them can consistently produce long-lasting results for sufferers.

Limited success in treating the physical symptoms of concussion. Limited success in dealing with the mental/emotional consequences of concussion.

When you lack a specific tool for a job, you default to using general tools. When the general tools don’t get the job done, then (obviously) you need a new tool.

Enter psilocybin and psychedelic medicine.

Psychedelic medicine for TBI: real hope, real medicine

As with many medical conditions, treating TBI has (previously) involved targeting the various symptoms with assorted drugs and therapies. This reflects the fact that we have no “cure” or comprehensive treatment for TBI.

Psychedelic drugs such as psilocybin, represent much more than just another therapy for TBI. As with the treatment of other mental health disorders, psychedelic drugs represent a revolutionary new approach to treat – and perhaps even cure – many mental health maladies that currently offer few effective treatment options.
 
In animal testing, scientists have now established that psychedelics such as psilocybin can “repair broken neural networks” and stimulate new growth in the brain. Both psychedelic medicine practitioners and those receiving these therapies describe a “reset” or “rewiring” of the brain as an end result of psychedelics-based therapy.

Imagine being able to reset a broken brain the way we reset a broken bone?

For Daniel Carcillo, he sees his informal psilocybin therapy as being an integral ingredient in completing his journey from post-concussion syndrome to a clean brain scan. Carcillo described his personal experience with psychedelic medicine.
 
“I tried several alternative treatments, from symptomology management to a hyperbaric chamber, but nothing gave me a long-term solution. After months of getting nowhere, I decided to take what’s known as a “hero’s dose” of psilocybin, 4 grams or more, to reset my mind. Following that first trip, my light sensitivity disappeared within three days and after three weeks, my doctor told me that I no longer fit the criteria for clinical depression.

After 18 months of alternating protocol of regular ‘hero’ doses and maintenance of microdoses of psilocybin mushrooms, my regular brain scans and qEEG scans show that my brain has no abnormalities. Psilocybin is not a “miracle drug”, it doesn’t work entirely on its own. It’s important to note that maintaining strong mental health also requires hard work and intentionality.”

In Carcillo’s own recovery (via self-medication) psilocybin therapy wasn’t the entire answer, but (at the least) it was the principal catalyst in that recovery. The end result was a clean bill of health, and, more importantly, regaining control over his life.

More than 40 years ago, Victor Kiam made a lot of money as President and CEO of Remington Products through a very successful advertising campaign for the company’s electric shavers.
 
“I liked the shaver so much, I bought the company.”

In the 21st century, Daniel Carcillo has provided his own take on that line of thinking. He was so impressed with how psilocybin therapy has changed his life, he started his own company to seek to bring psychedelic medicine to others.

A long road, with many steps

The mission of Wesana Health and others in this space to bring psychedelic medicine to the treatment of TBI won’t happen overnight. In our clinical trials system of drug development, research revolves around particular “indications” or symptoms.

The drug developer must obtain a specific “IND approval” from (in the U.S.) the FDA in order to unlock the door to a clinical trial of that therapy. What it means in practice is taking a symptom-by-symptom approach in treating this very complex neurological disorder – which often presents numerous serious symptoms.

However, within this process there are ways to build more comprehensive treatment models for complex disorders like TBI. CEO Carcillo explained this to Psychedelic Stock Watch.
 
“After someone sustains a traumatic brain injury, it is hard to get back to the person they were before, but there are solutions. You can recover from brain injury symptoms. The goal isn’t just to alleviate symptoms, but to get to the bottom of your symptoms and understand them.

I am passionate about raising awareness and creating clinics where we can treat symptomatology and develop the novel therapeutics of tomorrow through the FDA system. We need to break through the stigma associated with saying “I need help with my mental health” and push things into the market that will continue to raise awareness and support survivors.”

To get to this stage of “recovery” via a psychedelics-based therapy, Carcillo explained to Psychedelic Stock Watch that as trials (successfully) progress that new “secondary endpoints” can be added, for evaluation in the trial results.

Via broadening the treatment horizons for these psychedelics-based therapies, companies like Wesana Health are hoping to find a solution for TBI. Even people like Daniel Carcillo are extremely reluctant to refer to psychedelic medicine as a (potential) “cure” for traumatic brain injury, despite his clean brain scan.

However, for the millions of others in North America currently suffering from ongoing symptoms of TBI, if psychedelic medicine can result in their own clean brain scan, it’s doubtful those people will want to quibble about semantics.

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. What’s news is that part of this awareness is now a revolutionary approach to treatment that is clearly visible on the horizon.

Call it what you want. But if psychedelic medicine can provide a genuine solution for some/many of the sufferers of chronic symptoms from TBI, those people will probably want to call it “a miracle”.
 
Brain injury (cover) by freshidea is licensed under Adobe Stock
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