The perfect dose of psychedelics may differ from person to person, but everyone can agree it lies somewhere between “Is it working?” and “Run! The moon is chasing us!” And as the medicinal benefits of psilocybin, MDMA, DMT, and more become harder for regulators to ignore, scientists are working on better delivery systems. As Vice reports, Bexson Biomedical has developed a wearable pump, based on the same principles as an insulin pump, that would give its users precise control over the length and intensity of their trips.
Bexson co-founders Gregg Peterson and Jeffrey Becker developed their device in response to the opioid crisis, with the hope of “creating a non-opioid therapy that patients can go home with.” It currently works with ketamine, and while human trials may be coming next year, you won’t be able to legally use them recreationally any time soon.
“We are actively developing our psychedelic formulations and would like to have them in humans in 2022,” Peterson said. “We’ve got some work to do beforehand, but that would be our target.”
The device uses a small needle to provide controlled doses of liquid subcutaneously (under the skin, in the fat, before the needle hits muscle). This solves a number of problems with pills, or as they are sometimes called in medicine, bolus doses.
“When you swallow a bolus dose of something that doesn’t come on for an hour it’s very hard to get the dose right, and people’s liver enzymes are so variable that you can get 300 percent differences out of a given dose,” explained Becker. He used an example of how one person could be overwhelmed after a single pill of ecstasy, while another might take three identical pills to feel anything at all. “Why does that happen? A lot of it is liver enzyme stuff, and that doesn’t play well in a medical office.”
With the adjustable pump, the user could control the amount of ecstasy in their system — and as it turns out, the active ingredient in ecstasy, MDMA, is on the table. So, too, are DMT, some mescalines, and perhaps psilocybin and LSD. “We realized that what we had done was to hack the problems that are associated with a whole host of other molecules, and a whole bunch of other possible repurposing projects came into our awareness,” Becker said.
“We really see [this method of delivery] as substantially increasing the safety and also probably increasing consistency, so that patients can prepare for an event, go in, and it’s going to happen; they know they’re going to get into the space, and it’s not going to be a guessing game about ‘do I drink one cup of this brew or two cups?’ Our goals are to be much more in control of the dosing,” Becker added. “The pump is programmable, so when we’re looking at a different molecule like a psychedelic, where you’re really wanting to get a blood level that’s going to get it into the brain, it’s really just a matter of changing the programming in the pump.”
Of course, even with regulatory approval, the pumps will only be available with a prescription. Besides that, only a few cities have legalized psychedelics for medical treatment, though laws allowing that are progressing in California. For those reasons, the pumps won’t be used recreationally, in the same sense that no illegal drugs have ever appeared at any music festival. They certainly won’t be for sale at Bonnaroo the very moment they hit the market, no sir.
“We think we’ve got some of the best tech around that would maximize safety, [and] it’ll be interesting to see how decriminalization plays out,” said Peterson. “[But] in the near-term we are a drug development company going down the regulatory pathway for medical use.”
In other words, don’t make them a part of your 2021 festival planning, and probably not 2022 either. But in the long run, who knows? “Definitely some [psychedelics] are going to get approved,” Becker said. And if Bexson Biomedical has anything to say about it, the pump won’t be far behind.