Most people think of ketamine therapy for mental health conditions as being experimental and new. Today’s guest shares that ketamine has been successfully used for mental health conditions for over 20 years and for other medical purposes for decades. The discussion answers important questions like why we are so hesitant about this treatment option when we are so quick to embrace others.
Join us as the CEO of Mindbloom tells us about a recent study showing that at-home ketamine therapy is one of the most effective treatments for anxiety and depression.
“I think we’ve lumped a bunch of these illegal drugs or substances together. Some of them have been shown for a long time to have stunning and profound therapeutic benefits. Seemingly overnight, people have been starting to prescribe or use psychedelic therapies like ketamine therapy. There’s that quote: An overnight success is ten years in the making. In this case, ketamine would be 20 years in the making. The first study on ketamine for depression was published in 2000. And since then, over 100 clinical studies have been published showing consistently the safety and efficacy of ketamine therapy for a range of mental health care issues.” ~Dylan Beynon
Dylan Beynon is the Founder & CEO of Mindbloom — a mental health company that is transforming lives through psychedelic medicine, starting with ketamine therapy. A three-time founder, Dylan has been named a Top 25 Consumer HealthTech Executive and one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in Psychedelics and received the Tony Hsieh Award for the innovative culture he built at Mindbloom. Mindbloom has been featured by the likes of the New York Times, Vogue, and Women’s Health, and its clinicians facilitate over 100,000 ketamine therapy sessions annually.
Our host, Gabe Howard, is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, “Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations,” available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from the author.
Gabe makes his home in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio. He lives with his supportive wife, Kendall, and a Miniature Schnauzer dog that he never wanted, but now can’t imagine life without.
To book Gabe for your next event or learn more about him, please visit gabehoward.com.
Producer’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.
Announcer: You’re listening to Inside Mental Health: A Psych Central Podcast where experts share experiences and the latest thinking on mental health and psychology. Here’s your host, Gabe Howard.
Gabe Howard: Welcome to the podcast, everyone. I’m your host Gabe Howard and calling in today we have Dylan Beynon. Dylan is the founder and CEO of Mindbloom, a mental health company that is transforming lives through the use of psychedelic medicine, starting with ketamine therapy. Mindbloom has been featured by the likes of The New York Times, Vogue, and Women’s Health, and its clinicians facilitate over 100,000 ketamine therapy sessions annually. Dylan, welcome to the podcast.
Dylan Beynon: Thanks, Gabe. I’m really excited to chat with you today. This is a really important topic, not just for patients and the behavioral health care system, but for me personally, as somebody who grew up in a family that was obliterated by the mental health crisis. So I’m really excited to share the, what I know.
Gabe Howard: Oh, I appreciate that so much Dylan. Now, let’s go ahead and rip the band aid off and address the elephant in the room. People for years have said that they use illicit drugs, street drugs, to treat their mental health issues. And historically, we have referred to that behavior as self-medicating. And we really looked down on people for that. We really looked at it very negatively. But now, seemingly overnight, companies like yours legitimize the use of previously illegal substances. And now, of course, they’re called treatments. Now it begs the question, does this mean that the people using formerly illegal drugs to treat their mental health conditions were, in fact right all along?
Dylan Beynon: I mean, I think we should be talking about the fact that the mental health crisis is so bad with so many people suffering, despite trying so many different treatments for so long, that people have needed to go underground to get the help that they need. Like, people are sick and the system is not been able to help them, which is why the curve on the mental health crisis just keeps getting steeper and steeper. Suicide and overdose deaths have become the top two leading causes of death for Americans under the age of 45. About a quarter of Americans have a diagnosable mental illness. Depression is the number one cause of disability worldwide, and so it’s no wonder that people are seeking treatments that potentially aren’t being provided directly by their health care providers.
Gabe Howard: I wanted to ask you about the study that your company, Mindbloom, did with researchers from UCSF, NYU, the Cleveland Clinic, Houston Methodist, and MAPS. You all got together and you’ve published the largest ever peer reviewed clinical study of ketamine therapy. And the study’s conclusion was, quote, at home ketamine therapy is the most effective treatment for depression and anxiety currently available, unquote. Can you give us some more details? And how did that study come together?
Dylan Beynon: One of my big goals in Mindbloom, was to play some small part and apply my, um, you know, talents to progressing the psychedelic therapy and behavioral health care space. So we thought that there was an opportunity to not just give people an injection of ketamine, which is what we saw other providers mostly doing, largely doctors and anesthesiologists, but do what we saw a smaller number of providers doing, which is providing a more holistic, comprehensive, hands on system of psychosocial support for patients going through ketamine therapy, something that looks more like a psychedelic therapy modality. We’re helping people prepare for each session, get the most out of each session, and then integrate each session. So from day one, we were collecting clinical outcomes. When we started treating our first patients in March of 2019 with gold standard depression anxiety scales that are used by every pharmaceutical company and researcher for anxiety and depression. We recruited a board of nationally renowned medical advisors in psychiatry, brain imaging and psychedelic therapy to build those protocols and collect that data and evaluate that data.
Dylan Beynon: And after we had treated, several thousand patients, began running those clinical studies on the patient population to evaluate the outcomes. We published, as you mentioned, was the largest ever peer reviewed clinical study in ketamine therapy history, demonstrating that the at home ketamine therapy treatment program that Mindbloom providers are providing are literally the most effective treatments for anxiety and depression that are currently available. So whereas, say, 40 to 47% of patients have a clinically significant response of like a 50% improvement in symptoms from SSRIs, with about 30 to 50% having side effects, many of which are really severe like weight gain, sexual dysfunction, insomnia, at home ketamine therapy was working for 40% more people at 63% of patients, and one tenth as many were having side effects and less than 5%. And those side effects are also a lot lighter. Not to mention ketamine therapy works a lot more quickly. So that’s like 6 to 8 weeks to work. And those results for ketamine show up in 1 to 2 sessions.
Gabe Howard: Now, if I understand the study correctly, at the end of four weeks, 62.8% of the participants reported a 50% improvement or more in their depression and anxiety symptoms. But I’m curious because if I understand correctly, that study did not have a placebo component. So are we. You know, four weeks isn’t isn’t a lot of time. I mean, is that enough time to really determine that it was the ketamine and not just a change in routine or being fussed over or having something new to do, or a desire to please the interviewer or the doctor. Could any of those things contributed to the results that you’re seeing? Do you think you would get the same results if you did the study over six months, for example?
Dylan Beynon: We get asked a lot about whether or not this should be run as a randomized, controlled, clinical or randomized clinical trial or a placebo controlled trial. So there’s sort of two types of data that can come out of a lot of these studies. There’s lab data and then there’s real world evidence. So lab data is the data that’s collected usually by pharmaceutical companies when they’re running clinical trials to see if a drug is safe and effective. And then real world evidence is the data that’s actually used in clinical practice day to day by real providers treating real patients versus study participants who are hand-selected and really hand held through the process. So, as you can imagine, usually lab data is superior to real world evidence data. It looks a little bit better because it’s hyper controlled who’s going through and how they’re getting the treatment. So when you look at a really large study, so this study we ran with researchers and physicians from Maps, Cleveland Clinic, UCSF, NYU and Houston Methodist, the largest academic research health system in Texas. When we ran that the end was 1250, which is extremely large for a behavioral health care study, much less a ketamine therapy study. Usually when we look at different ketamine therapy studies and a lot of behavioral studies, we’re seeing that the ends are in like the 30, 40, 50 range.
Dylan Beynon: And we’re actually currently running a study that’s going to be 6 or 7 times larger with nearly 10,000 patients. That’s going to be published later this year. And it’s also going to look a little bit more at the durability of effects to your question earlier. Another thing I think is interesting when you look at ketamine therapy studies is that in science right now, we know that we have a replication crisis, especially in social studies and social sciences and oftentimes even neuroscience. So one study that comes out and has great effects when people try to run the same study, we don’t have consistent outcomes. But when you look at ketamine therapy, as I mentioned, there have been over the last 20 years, over 100 published clinical studies, which is more than every other psychedelic medicine combined. And they nearly across the board all demonstrated these exceptional outcomes. So I think when you look at that, you see a very clear line of regression and consistency. You know, anecdotal evidence of, you know, thousands and thousands, hundreds of thousands of patients lives being transformed, decide that this is really, you know, effective and really safe for people.
Gabe Howard: These are, of course, incredible results, but frankly, it does seem too good to be true. Oh, take this and it’s magical and you’re going to be healed. And it’s quick and easy and it doesn’t even hurt. I did actually find an ad online. It was not an ad for your company, but another provider. And it said, quote, this treatment is like a year of therapy in two weeks, unquote. Everything is saying that this is the ultimate solution. It is a silver bullet. You’ve been struggling for a long time, but you take this and you will be all better. So when you say that a lot of providers aren’t willing to consider ketamine therapy for their patients, maybe this is why. It literally just sounds like snake oil. It all sounds too good to be true.
Dylan Beynon: Haven’t we lowered the bar way too much? If we think that there can’t be something that actually works for mental health. [Laughter]
Gabe Howard: That’s, that’s a very good point. [Laughter]
Dylan Beynon: Like, like, when, uh, when I have a headache and I take ibuprofen or Tylenol, my headache goes away. Like, is that too good to be true? Like. No. Like, there are many areas of health care where treatments largely work. We’ve solved them, right? Like we built a we created a polio vaccine so that we don’t get polio anymore. We have specific antibiotics that obliterate bacterial infection. So we just don’t get those infections anymore or overcome those infections very quickly. Mental health is one where we are approaching it, I believe. I think it’s very clear as a society like it’s this intractable problem that is nearly unsolvable, like we’ve accepted that mental health care treatments don’t work and there can’t be something that bends or inverts this curve where the mental health crisis is getting worse and worse and worse. And so one of the things that I believe, looking at the clinical research on ketamine therapy, on MDMA therapy, which looks like it’s going to be available next year, psilocybin assisted therapy, is that these treatments have the opportunity and the promise to invert that curve for the first time in a long time, and actually start making it so that the mental health crisis ship isn’t just continuing to fill with water and sink, but that the buckets are actually big enough and have few enough holes that we can actually start pouring the water out of the ship and getting the ship to rise again.
Gabe Howard: So why does it have such a bad reputation? Is it just that it began its life as an illegal street drug? What are the biggest misconceptions that the general public has about ketamine therapy?
Gabe Howard: And we’re back discussing ketamine therapy with the founder and CEO of Mindbloom, Dylan Beynon.
Dylan Beynon: First, the fact that there are myths and stigmas around ketamine is actually extremely important, because right now, fear for patients is one of the biggest blockers for them, trying a safe and efficacious treatment that could completely change their entire mental health care journey. And a lot of these stigmas or lack of education are also slowing providers down from adopting them. So I’m glad you asked this question. To me, it’s that ketamine is new and it’s experimental. In fact, ketamine has been safely used for over 50 years as an anesthetic and analgesic. It’s used every single day in every single E.R. emergency room and hospital in the United States of America, on adults and especially on children. It’s on the World Health Organization’s list of the top 100 most essential medicines in the world because it is arguably the safest anesthetic. It was 20 years ago where researchers began discovering that it had these really profound and impressive antidepressant effects. Researchers started noticing that people who came into the E.R. and received ketamine for different traumas, the physical traumas when they left started reporting less depression. And that was one of the things that inspired them to start looking into could ketamine on its own at even at subanesthetic doses.
Dylan Beynon: So, say at Mindbloom, patients are getting like one fifth to 1/20 of what a child receives in the E.R. It’s much, much lower dose. And ketamine therapy for anxiety and depression, not as an anesthetic and analgesic, has actually been used by thousands of providers over the last 20 years, with over 100 published clinical studies on its safety and efficacy in that time period.However, a lot of people don’t know this, and a lot of both patients and providers still think of this as a treatment of last resort. After I’ve tried everything else, I will go to ketamine therapy. But when you look at the clinical outcomes, both from a lot of published studies and from real world evidence in practices like what’s going on in Mindbloom, where over 300,000 treatment sessions have been facilitated since 2019 by hundreds of providers. What you see is that this is actually more efficacious than traditional treatments. Much lower side effect profile, works way faster and from a patient’s experience can sometimes be challenging, but is usually quite pleasant, sometimes extremely pleasant. And for those reasons, we should be thinking about ketamine therapy as a treatment of first resort, not a treatment of last resort. But we’re still pretty far because of these stigmas. I think there’s also the element where it has a bad brand and needs to undergo a rebranding. One of the most common questions I hear about ketamine is isn’t that a horse tranquilizer? It’s like asking, isn’t Valium just a horse tranquilizer?
Gabe Howard: I did not know that about ketamine, and I want to admit I also thought of it as just special K or simply as a horse tranquilizer. And it is interesting that that is the back story, because I don’t think that people realize that compared to other areas of medicine, mental health just does not get a lot of love in frontline research. A lot of our progress and available treatments have been repurposed from other research areas. Pharmaceutical companies, researchers, doctors, they’re investigating a solution, a cure, a treatment for something else. And then during that process, they discover it helps something on the mental health side. So of course, they do more research. They isolate how it’s helping, and then they figure that out. But make no mistake, they weren’t setting out in the beginning to research a mental health condition. They were researching something else and we just got lucky. There is very little front end mental health research being funded, and some of our best treatments have come from researching something else. Now, I want to move this away from mental health for a moment and move it into the physical health realm, because I want to point out that erectile dysfunction, that breakthrough, did not come because they were researching erectile dysfunction. They were not looking for ED meds, they were trying to find a drug for hypertension. And then, you know, during the studies, they noticed that male participants all got erections and they’re like, hey, wait a minute, that’s unusual. So they started investigating and isolating and they found the ED treatment. And of course it’s been super successful. It’s everywhere. It’s on every television. We’ve got people sitting in bathtubs over cliffs holding their spouses’ hand. But do you think that some of the apprehension surrounding ketamine therapy is because most people with mental illness and their loved ones just don’t understand that ketamine is not that special? Almost all of our treatments were, for lack of a better word, borrowed from somewhere else?
Dylan Beynon: You just inspired me to look up some of the biggest inventions that were accidental in human history. I think a stunning number of inventions were actually discovered accidentally. Penicillin, as I think most people or a lot of people know, is discovered accidentally. You know, sort of one of the one of the first, if not the first. It was the first antibiotic. The microwave was discovered accidentally. Smoke detectors, dynamite, the blood thinner. Warfarin, which is, you know, a massive medication. Coca Cola was discovered accidentally. So it’s not completely surprising to me that when mental health has not been at the forefront of policymakers, of the national conversation, of the health care system, and that a lot of the discoveries have been accidental. And ketamine, I think, is one of those, or ketamine for depression and anxiety and other mood disorders is one of those.
Gabe Howard: Dylan, let’s pivot. We’ve talked about the internet’s opinion. We’ve talked about society’s opinion. We’ve talked about the media’s opinion, but we haven’t talked about the patient opinion. What are your patients seeing? How do they feel about this treatment?
Dylan Beynon: One of the things that surprises people most when I talk to them about Mindbloom is who our patients are. I think a lot of people see a consumer health platform that advertises on Instagram and gets a lot of press and things, like you pointed out, you know, New York Times, Wall Street Journal podcasts, as they assume that our patient population is very young. In reality, our median patient is 41 years old. We have more patients over the age of 57 than in their 20s. It’s about 55/45 female male. It’s actually a very male patient population in behavioral health. And our patients are people who have suffered from mental health care issues for a long time. Usually they’ve suffered for five, ten, 20, 30 years. And they’ve tried so many other treatment options, like my mother and my sister did and ultimately have not been able to find relief. For instance, my father, who is my hero after my sister died last year from her fentanyl overdose right after getting out of a 90 day inpatient rehab facility, he was in a deep suicidal depression. He’d already been depressed for years, and I tried to get him to try ketamine therapy. But ultimately, I think sort of the fear and the stigma was too much for him to overcome to build up that activation energy. But after my sister died, he he was, you know, on the verge of suicide. I had meditated on it and essentially assigned him like a 50/50 chance of surviving the next 30 to 60 days. You know, getting messages from him with things like, here are all my passwords, just in case. Here’s where I have silver hidden around the our small home that we grew up in Anaheim, California, in case anything happens. We finally were able to get him to try ketamine therapy and he did it through Mindbloom, working directly with our medical director, Dr. Leonardo Vando.
Dylan Beynon: And after even just a few sessions, I was achieved complete remission from suicidal ideation. He sounds 30 years younger. He’s done a few different programs now, and he’s exercising. He’s eating healthier. He has goals which he hasn’t had for a long time. He’s like, you know, cleaning up and renovating and, you know, sort of organizing his home and making it his. And it’s been absolutely incredible to see and, you know, to have the opportunity to have helped one person, you know, in my family with their mental health care issue, because people are truly dying from the mental health crisis. And that’s a story that is, you know, it’s a story that we see literally every single day at Mindbloom every single day. We’re seeing people who haven’t just had profound and impressive results when it comes to getting through anxiety and depression, but are literally saying that their lives have been saved from this medication. And one of the things that makes me really proud about that is that I know from my experience growing up in a family with mental health issues, that mental illness doesn’t just affect and is tragic for that individual who’s suffering, but it has this massive ripple effect on their friends, family, the work that they can or can’t do in the world. Um, you know, hurt people, hurt people, whether or not the person’s hurt, you know, is in control of that or not. And so I know every one of these transformational client stories is creating a positive ripple effect out to the people around them. And I think that’s how we can bend the curve on this mental health care crisis.
Gabe Howard: Dylan, this has been great, but we are almost out of time. Where can folks find Mindbloom on the web?
Dylan Beynon: At Mindbloom.com.
Gabe Howard: Perfect. Dylan, thank you so much for being here today.
Dylan Beynon: Thanks, Gabe. This was a blast. I loved your questions. This was a really unique conversation that I’m excited to share with the world.
Gabe Howard: I’m excited, too. Thank you once again for being here, Dillon. And of course, a big thank you to all of our listeners. My name is Gabe Howard, and I’m an award winning public speaker, and I could be available for your next event. I also wrote the book “Mental Illness Is an Asshole and Other Observations,” which you can get on Amazon. However, you can grab a signed copy with free show swag or learn more about me by heading over to gabehoward.com. Wherever you downloaded this episode, please follow, subscribe to the show. It is absolutely free and you don’t want to miss a thing. And hey, can you do me a favor? Recommend the show to everyone you know, because sharing the show is how we’re going to grow. I will see everybody next Thursday on Inside Mental Health.
Announcer: You’ve been listening to Inside Mental Health: A Psych Central Podcast from Healthline Media. Have a topic or guest suggestion? E-mail us at email@example.com. Previous episodes can be found at psychcentral.com/show or on your favorite podcast player. Thank you for listening.