“At the 24-hour time point, there’s really no ketamine left in the body at all. The ketamine’s gone, they haven’t been high for 20, 22 hours . . . but they’re still not depressed. What that shows is that the ketamine has changed something in their brain.”— Dr. Suresh Muthukumaraswamy
Dr. Suresh Muthukumaraswamy completed his PhD in Psychology at the University of Auckland in 2005, after which he joined the newly established Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre as a postdoctoral fellow. While at Cardiff, he started research work with psychedelics in 2011 in collaboration with Professor David Nutt and Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris, investigating the neuroimaging correlates of the psychedelic drugs psilocybin and LSD. In 2014, Suresh received a prestigious Rutherford Discovery Fellowship and returned to the University of Auckland where he works in the School of Pharmacy at the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences and leads the Auckland Neuropsychopharmacology Research Group.
Suresh’s main research interests are in understanding how therapies alter brain function and behavior and in testing methodologies to measure these changes in both healthy individuals and patient groups—particularly in depressed patients.
At the University of Auckland, he has conducted clinical trials in depressed patients involving ketamine, scopolamine, and transcranial magnetic stimulation. He has received several Health Research Council of New Zealand research grants to support this work, including a grant to investigate the effects of microdoses of LSD on brain and cognitive function. Suresh has published 117 papers, with his work receiving 8000+ citations.
This special episode of the podcast is a live recording from an event hosted by the Edmund Hillary Fellowship (EHF). EHF began in 2016 as a pilot immigration program and has matured into a fellowship of more than 500 technologists, creatives, investors, entrepreneurs, educators, and systems designers, committed to New Zealand as a base camp for global impact. From more than 50 different nationalities, including New Zealand, fellows span a range of high-value sectors: media, education, cleantech, venture capital, and mental health initiatives/research just to name a few.
EHF and its fellows aim to make a meaningful impact in New Zealand/Aotearoa with projects that often have global applications.
Want to hear an episode that further explores psychoactive substances? Have a listen to this conversation between Hamilton Morris and Dr. Mark Plotkin, in which they discuss microdosing, 5-MeO-DMT, the “Drunken Monkey” hypothesis, Timothy Leary’s legacy, synthetic versus natural compounds, the history of psychoactive substances, and much more.
SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE
- Connect with Dr. Suresh Muthukumaraswamy:
- Edmund Hillary Fellowship (EHF)
- New Zealand Health Survey | Ministry of Health NZ
- What Is Psychopharmacology? | ASCP
- Anesthetics | DrugBank Online
- Welcome to ‘GABAergic Drugs’ | Future Medicinal Chemistry
- An Overview of Remifentanil | Anesthesia & Analgesia
- A Randomized Controlled Trial of Intravenous Scopolamine Versus Active-Placebo Glycopyrrolate in Patients With Major Depressive Disorder | Journal of Clinical Psychiatry
- ‘Devil’s Breath’ AKA Scopolamine: Can It Really Zombify You? | The Guardian
- Scopolamine: World’s Scariest Drug (Documentary Exclusive) | Vice
- An Introduction to Five Psychedelics: Psilocybin, DMT, LSD, MDMA and Ketamine | Technology Networks
- From Despair to Hope in Hours | NIH Intramural Research Program
- The Past, Present, and Future of Using Ketamine to Treat Depression | Smithsonian Magazine
- The World’s Largest Psychedelic Research Center | The Tim Ferriss Show #385
- Psilocybin Treatment for Major Depression Effective for Up to a Year for Most Patients, Study Shows | Johns Hopkins Medicine
- World-First Randomised Study on Effects of Microdosing LSD to Get Underway | 1News
- MDLSD: Study Protocol for a Randomised, Double-Masked, Placebo-Controlled Trial of Repeated Microdoses of LSD in Healthy Volunteers | Trials
- The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys by James Fadiman | Amazon
- Psychedelic Microdosing: A Subreddit Analysis | Journal of Psychoactive Drugs
- Misuse of Drugs Regulations 1977 | New Zealand Legislation
- Australian Government to Spend $15M on Psychedelic Trials | Vice
- The Dunedin Study | Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health & Development Research Unit
- Christchurch Health and Development Study | University of Otago, Christchurch
- Clinical Studies In Preterm Babies | Liggins Institute
- Stroke Research Clinic | The University of Auckland
- A Prescription Nasal Spray | Spravato
- Paul Glue’s Research | Division of Health Sciences, Division of Health Sciences, University of Otago, New Zealand
- How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan | Amazon
- Michael Pollan — Exploring the Frontiers of Psychedelics | The Tim Ferriss Show #365
- Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) | Wikipedia
- What Is LD50 and LC50? | OSH Answers
- Illegal Drugs Laws: Clearing a 50-Year-Old Obstacle to Research | PLOS Biology
- Editorial: Placebo and Nocebo Effects in Psychiatry and Beyond | Frontiers In Psychiatry
- The Problem at the Heart of Modern Psychedelic Clinical Research | New Atlas
- Blinding and Expectancy Confounds in Psychedelic Randomized Controlled Trials | Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology
- Niacin – Vitamin B3 | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
- Microdosing: Benefits and Risks | Healthline
- Why Chronic Microdosing Might Break Your Heart | Chacruna
- No Link Found between Psychedelics and Psychosis | Nature
- This Bicycle Day, Celebrate Albert Hofmann’s Psychedelic Discovery | Rolling Stone
- Statistical Bulletin 2022: Price, Purity and Potency | European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction
- Promoting Health & Safety within Music and Nightlife Communities | DanceSafe
- How Freely Should Scientists Share Their Data? | Scientific American Blog Network
- Funding Cutting-Edge Scientific Research | Saisei Foundation
- Marcela Ot’alora — How to Become a Psychedelic Therapist | The Tim Ferriss Show #396
- MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy | MAPS
- Hamilton Morris on Iboga, 5-MeO-DMT, the Power of Ritual, New Frontiers in Psychedelics, Excellent Problems to Solve, and More | The Tim Ferriss Show #511
- The Project on Psychedelics Law and Regulation (POPLAR) | Harvard Law School
- Māori Have Highest Rate of Mental Illness and Addiction — New Research | RNZ News
- Psychedelic Medicine & Therapies | MindMed
- Our Vision Is a World of Mental Well-Being | COMPASS Pathways
- Redefining How the World Approaches, Prevents, and Heals Mental Health Disorders | Atai Life Sciences
- Some Thoughts on For-Profit Psychedelic Startups and Companies | Tim Ferriss
- Protecting Psychedelic Science & Medical Development for Public Benefit | Freedom To Operate
- Patents on Psychedelics: The Next Legal Battlefront of Drug Development | Harvard Law School
- [03:44] Current mental health and addiction trend lines in New Zealand.
- [05:37] Compounds Suresh has researched.
- [07:13] Does scopolamine have potential as an antidepressant?
- [09:55] How ketamine differs from other psychedelics.
- [16:20] The durability of antidepressant effects.
- [21:45] How Suresh picks the focus of his research (example: LSD microdosing).
- [24:43] Why New Zealand is unique for fostering psychedelic innovation.
- [31:01] How could New Zealand improve the impact of scientific research?
- [35:13] Inspiring research currently underway in New Zealand.
- [37:40] Obstacles to getting ketamine labeled as an antidepressant.
- [40:39] Ketamine research by University of Otago’s Professor Paul Glue.
- [41:48] Future studies Suresh would like to see (and their challenges).
- [47:25] The difficulty of applying placebo controls to psychedelic research.
- [54:49] Getting the public to benefit from this research in a timely manner.
- [58:17] Risks of microdosing and relying on unregulated supplies.
- [1:02:21] Open science replication crises.
- [1:03:56] Training clinical personnel in new science as it becomes available.
- [1:07:20] Where can New Zealanders access psychedelic therapy now?
- [1:08:25] Avoiding another 50 years of psychedelic research darkness.
- [1:13:08] Is any of Suresh’s research focused on addiction recovery?
- [1:14:08] Why women haven’t been as widely included in these studies as men.
- [1:15:56] Where aspiring psychedelic researchers should focus their education.
- [1:17:02] Red flags in the private sector.
- [1:20:14] Parting thoughts.
- Michelle Cole
- David Nutt
- Robin Carhart-Harris
- Roland R. Griffiths
- John Krystal
- James Fadiman
- Paul Glue
- Michael Pollan
- Richard M. Nixon
- Albert Hofmann
- Shayla Love
- Carey Turnbull
- Mason Marks
- I. Glenn Cohen
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