Psychedelic Drugs: the $16 TRILLION Opportunity?

Mental health issues currently cost the global economy $1 trillion per year. A recent study estimated this could reach $16 trillion by 2030.


According to Western folklore, the Chinese have the same word for “crisis” and “opportunity”. In fact, this is a myth, derived from a misunderstanding of the Mandarin language.

Despite the fallacy, this idea has enduring power as a cliché. Why? Because intuitively we understand that one person’s “crisis” is another person’s “opportunity”.

When a hurricane devastates some coastal region, this is clearly a crisis for local inhabitants. However, for construction companies, suppliers of emergency equipment, and other disaster-relief services this crisis (for others) is an opportunity for themselves.

This concept also applies to the current global Mental Health Crisis. This crisis is not merely seriously impacting societies all around the world, it is a major threat to the health of the global economy.

A terrible problem, getting worse

In 2018, the World Economic Forum estimated that mental health disorders already cost the global economy $1 trillion per year in lost productivity. A report from the Lancet Commission released at roughly the same time (November 2018), put the cumulative price-tag for these issues at $16 trillion by 2030.

The epidemic of mental health disorders is a crisis of several dimensions:
 
  • Increasingly stressful lives and increasingly dysfunctional societies are causing an exponential rise in mental health issues
  • Mental health conditions that are driving this epidemic (depression, anxiety, substance abuse) currently have poor treatment options
  • We can’t afford $16 trillion in lost productivity between now and 2030

We have a terrible problem. It’s getting worse. We have no good treatment options. We can’t afford the associated costs.

A crisis in every respect, but for some it is also an opportunity. Enter psychedelic drugs.

Obviously, psychedelic drugs don’t represent a $16 trillion economic opportunity by themselves, but rather the potential solution to a $16 trillion problem.

How many billions of dollars is going to flow into this emerging sector?

Put another way, how many billions is it worth to mitigate the costs of a $16 trillion problem?

Answering the second question requires looking at two things: the dismal treatment options currently on the market for many mental health conditions and the potential of psychedelic drug therapy to deliver vastly superior results.

Poor existing treatment options

Depression is estimated to currently afflict 322 million people worldwide, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). Roughly 11 million Americans experience a “major depressive episode” each year.

Yet less than 1/3rd of Americans who “screened positive” for depression received any treatment for their symptoms. Those were the numbers from a study by Columbia University Medical Center.
 
New study suggests most American adults with depression receive no treatment

New findings suggest that most Americans with depression receive no treatment, while raising the possibility that overtreatment of depression is also widespread. Less than a third of American adults who screened positive for depression received treatment for their symptoms, whereas over two-thirds of adults receiving treatment for depression did not report symptoms of depression or serious psychological distress, according to a study from Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and the University of Pennsylvania.

Why do so few seek treatment? Terrible treatment options. The same study reported:
 
Despite the introduction of newer-generation antidepressants, approximately 50% of patients experience non-response to treatment with a first-line antidepressant.

A 50% failure rate. And anti-depressants have a long list of unpleasant (and even dangerous) side effects.

Medical science currently does no better in treating addiction. The most effective drug on the market to treat nicotine addiction today (varenicline) only has a 35% success rate. A study using psilocybin to treat nicotine addiction reported an 80% success rate.

Psychedelic drugs represent REAL hope

The psilocybin study on nicotine addiction is by no means anomalous. Investors researching potential psychedelic drug applications will have seen a steady stream of amazing clinical study results in recent years.
 
These are just a few of the hundreds of clinical studies and clinical trials on psychedelic drugs that are either already completed or currently underway.

Depression, anxiety, PTSD, addiction, ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease, cluster headaches/migraines, and bipolar disorder. These are just some of the health issues that are currently the subject of psychedelic drug research.

Most such research centers on mental health disorders. This is because of the unique properties of psychedelic drugs to help to (among other things) break rigid thought patterns. Proponents argue that these drugs can help people re-wire their brains.

The Crisis
 
  • A global epidemic in mental health disorders
  • A steady rise in the number of sufferers (even before the spike in mental health issues associated with the COVID-19 pandemic)
  • Terrible treatment options
  • A potential $16 trillion economic cost by 2030

The Opportunity
 
  1. Easing prohibitions: this is the first time in decades that researchers have been allowed to assess the medicinal properties of most of these drugs
  2. Massive commercial potential: medical areas currently under research generally all represent multi-billion treatment markets
  3. Massive monetary incentive: thanks to the Patent Cliff, multinational drug companies have never been hungrier (and willing to pay more) for new drug discoveries
  4. Exciting success rates: the psychedelic studies that have been completed aren’t merely reporting marginal success rates but rather potentially revolutionary improvements versus the current standard of care

Crisis and opportunity. The one often implies the other.

Generally, the bigger the crisis the bigger the potential opportunity.

No one wants to get rich at the expense of the suffering of others. However, making a profit from reducing such suffering is an opportunity we can all appreciate.
 
opportunity (cover) by Dilok is licensed under Adobe Stock
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