🫠 Psychonaut POV

[4-min read] Q&A with Mathieu Seynaeve, Psychiatrist & Clinical Researcher

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Dr. Mathieu Seynaeve is a (real) psychiatrist who’s gone fully down the psychedelics rabbit hole. He’s so convinced of their therapeutic potential that he leads research at Beckley Psytech, a psychedelic drug development company that’s been impossible to ignore.

We spoke to Mat about the most exciting recent developments in psychedelic research, his thoughts on the spiritual side of psychedelic use, and lessons learned from his side career in music.


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Mathieu Seynaeve Psychonaut POV

Q&A with Mathieu Seynaeve, Psychiatrist & Clinical Researcher

Can you tell us about some of the current research projects that you or Beckley Psytech is working on?

Beckley Psytech is currently working on two different synthetic formulations. The first is an IV formulation of psilocin, which is a more stable broken-down form of psilocybin that we’re plannin to explore as a potential treatment for Major Depressive Disorder. This formulation means people can now have psilocybin experiences that come on much more quickly and last for a shorter duration. The other formulation is a synthetic version of 5-MeO-DMT, developed as a nasal spray, that we’re investigating in patients with Treatment-Resistant Depression and Alcohol Use Disorder. The effects of this compound start very quickly and last under 90 minutes, making it another shorter psychedelic experience. These formulations aim to address the long dosing time and waiting period that people usually experience with psilocybin and other psychedelics, as well as improve the efficacy of the treatment.

In a recent Phase 1 study of 5-MeO-DMT, we found that people had good subjective responses with tolerable doses. We used the mystical experience questionnaire to measure these responses, which has been linked to therapeutic outcomes. We are now working on an open-label Phase 2a study on patients with treatment-resistant depression. This study has recently started, and the first patients have been dosed safely.

My personal research project, which is part of my PhD with King's College, focuses on understanding the psychological change mechanisms when using psychedelics therapeutically, especially the shorter-acting ones. I'm interested in exploring the differences between 5-MeO-DMT and psilocybin, and how to develop a therapeutic approach that supports people through these experiences in a meaningful way.

What is the most exciting discovery you've either followed or been involved with in psychedelic-related research?

The most exciting thing for me was to see the use of 5-MeO-DMT in healthy volunteers and more recently in patients as part of my role at Beckley Psytech. With psilocybin, one of the main challenges was that when the dose wasn’t high enough, people could have challenging experiences that could be therapeutically useful, but people often struggled with them. Waiting for a breakthrough could take a long time, with a six to eight-hour session with two therapists and a patient. So seeing people break through much more quickly with 5-MeO-DMT was one of the most exciting things for me.

5-MeO-DMT is much earlier in drug development programs compared to psilocybin, which has an established naturalistic use and a long tradition of research from the ‘60s. There is much to learn about what works with 5-MeO-DMT, how it works, what doses are needed, and what people need. I’m passionate about this area of research. It feels cutting edge.

5-MeO-DMT produces profound, mystical, some would even say spiritual experiences. As a scientist, how do you square those reports with a materialist perspective? What implications does that have for research?

I don't necessarily approach the subject from a materialistic perspective because I believe that as a scientist, you should be agnostic to what you don't know and strive to know as much as possible about what you can know. As a psychiatrist, my focus is on what can be helpful for patients. While I am interested in the philosophy around the subjective experiences of 5-MeO-DMT, I also take a pragmatic approach to drug development and ask if it can work for patients with certain clinical indications.

The established approach in clinical trials is to write a protocol defining how the study should be done and let independent research teams execute it and gather the data. This data can help prove if 5-MeO-DMT is useful for depression outcomes or other outcome measures, although it may not capture the whole picture of what happens to people. While literature, philosophy, and the arts focus on the subjective experience, clinical trials' focus on the question of whether this can be used clinically does not always account for this experience.

I believe that the mystical experience questionnaire and the emotional breakthrough inventory are both important tools for measuring the effects of psychedelics. They might be measuring slightly different things, with the emotional survey capturing more of a psychodynamic experience, and the mystical survey querying more of a transpersonal or metaphysical belief change. Many researchers are investigating these aspects and how people's beliefs may change through the use of psychedelics.

Beckley Psytech and other biotech companies are focused on psychedelics as medical treatments. What are your thoughts on the use of psychedelics outside of pathology for personal growth or spiritual purposes?

I certainly don't judge it. While many people at Beckley, myself included, are interested in non-medical developments, the focus of the company is on developing novel psychiatric treatments.

As a psychiatrist, I believe the people who need these treatments the most are the people who are suffering the most. Psychedelics are being investigated in treatment-resistant disorders because there’s such an unmet need for better options. The stakes are incredibly high for every person affected. At the end of the day, you need to focus on something. I want to focus on developing new treatments.

Outside the lab, you’ve had a successful career in music production. How has this influenced your work as a psychedelics researcher?

I have an infinite love of music. In the psychedelic experience, music is often used as a tool for guidance and therapy. I'm really interested in how music can be integrated into the experience to enhance the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.

Personally, playing guitar and engaging in nonverbal expression through music has been a way for me to relax and explore. I think that our autonomic nervous systems are often what resonate with us, and it's interesting to observe how our musical tastes evolve over time as we grow as individuals.

For me, psychedelics have allowed me to bring my passion for music into my professional work as a psychiatrist and researcher. Music is a language of its own, and I believe it has the potential to be an incredibly powerful therapeutic tool.

Want to stay up-to-date on Mathieu’s research? Learn more about Beckley Psytech’s clinical studies.

That’s all for today. Before you head off, don’t forget to share, rate, and review Tricycle Day below. Catch ya next time, Cyclists! ✌️

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