We’re in the midst of a worldwide mental health crisis. 

According to the World Health Organization, some 300 million people globally suffer from anxiety, more than 264 million people are depressed, and close to 800,000 die from suicide every year, often a direct result of these types of conditions. Psychedelic therapies have long been shown to help with depression and other mental health concerns, particularly when paired with more conventional approaches.

Based in Toronto, Field Trip Health is working to bring these treatments to the masses, combining “wisdom and science of psychedelic medicine with personalized psychotherapy and mental health wellness practices.” The company has raised almost $20 million in 2020 alone and is actively working to expand its network of clinics in the U.S. and Canada. We recently sat down with founder and executive chairman Ronan Levy to learn more about what the company is working on and what it means to deliver psychedelic healing at scale.

Psychedelic Invest: So, what is Field Trip all about?

Ronan Levy: Excuse the little bit of a squishy answer, but our mission with Field Trip is to bring the world to life through psychedelics and psychedelic psychotherapies. 

Really, the thought process is two-fold. Certainly, the medical interest in psychedelics is where things are now, but it also has the capacity to help a lot more people than just those who have clinical diagnoses of depression or PTSD. So we’ve really tried to position our brand and our company as being designed to participate in all aspects of this evolving market. 

When we went through our first branding exercise our branding advisors were focused on purely medical applications and I was fully resistant to that because there’s too much opportunity beyond medical. Truthfully, a lot of the internal motivation for what we’re doing is based on the capacity of psychedelics to help the entire world, how people grow up emotionally, spiritually, and mentally.

PI: What does that look like in practice?

RL: That’s the exciting part for us. What we’re doing with Field Trip is creating what we would describe as a vertically integrated psychedelics company, but really what we’re trying to do is build this industry. And there are a few prongs to that. 

The first and most advanced prong is rolling out our network of clinics designed to provide psychedelic assisted psychotherapy, starting with ketamine assisted psychotherapy. We have centers operating in Toronto, New York, and very shortly LA will be up and running as well, scaling up hopefully to about 75 clinics over the next few years. We’re using ketamine as a therapeutic agent because it’s legal and it’s available now and it can help a lot of people, but really our ambition is to be the preeminent brand and experience once psilocybin and other psychedelics become legal.

That’s the primary focus of Field Trip, but we’re also actively trying to advance the dialogue around psychedelics. We’ve launched a podcast called Field Tripping and we also are about to launch an app called Trip which is designed for self-guided explorers who are using any manner of techniques to access a psychedelic experience. That can be meditation or breath work, herbal supplements or anything that’s legal in the jurisdiction in which they reside. The app is about providing the best tools and protocols available so they have a good experience. 

Then the third piece of what we’re doing is drug development. We have a molecule in preclinical development, a novel psychedelic molecule, and we’re advancing it in the clinical development process as well as doing active research. 

PI: Let’s talk about that novel molecule a little more. What’s the goal there?

RL: The first thing we’re doing is just trying to get consistent cultivation. One of the challenges when growing mushrooms is that the compounds can vary from mushroom to mushroom. So we’re seeing if we can get consistent cultivation and we’re growing eight different species right now, because once we’ve got consistency in cultivation what we want to do is really begin to understand the “entourage effect” of each compound. We want to understand why one compound results in a different experience than another by understanding the molecular considerations. That’s our primary area of interest. 

There are 200 or so species of psilocybin producing mushrooms and none of them have been studied to the extent that cannabis has been studied. Probably 99% of them haven’t been studied at all. There’s a great opportunity for a lot of basic research and understanding. It’s really exciting to potentially be on the forefront of discovering new psychedelic molecules or other therapeutic molecules.

PI: It’s fascinating to me that one variety can treat one disorder while another variety could treat a different disorder and nobody really knows about it yet. 

RL: Absolutely. And that’s across all psychedelics. How do you triage? When you have [access to] MDMA and psilocybin and LSD and DMT, when all of those are available and someone walks into a clinic where do you start?

No one’s done that work. That’s pretty exciting. But the journey is always going to be toward mental wellbeing and emotional growth. 

PI: Why are you so convinced that there is so much opportunity beyond medical use?

RL: Philosophically a clinical diagnosis does not equate to people suffering with emotional traumas. You can have enough emotional traumas in your life and still not be clinically depressed or never seek treatment for clinical depression. That’s why we think everybody can benefit from this. Whether they call it meditation or whether they call it therapy, there’s value in trying to understand our motivations, working through traumas, and just understanding who we are.

We think that there’s not a person who can’t benefit from understanding more of who they are, where they come from and why they see the world the way they do. Because with that awareness they can change people’s minds and open them up to new perspectives. 

PI: Let’s talk about the integration side. When you talk to therapists, they often say that the actual session is very important but the preparation and the follow-up are critical to incorporating improvements into your daily life.

RL: Absolutely. Wired just did an article on Field Trip and the closing line, which is one that I 100% subscribe to, is that I consider what we’re doing in psychedelics more broadly as kind of being like the Home Depot equivalent for self-improvement. You can do it. We can help. 

We’ll support you with the therapy, we’ll support you with the prescriptions, we’ll support you with the products if we can do that, but this is your own journey. We’re just guides along the way down that path, and this is a lifelong commitment.

PI: And results vary from person to person. No two experiences are alike just like no two people are alike.

RL: That’s right. We’ve tried to create protocols as much as possible because we’re trying to create a degree of efficiency within our clinics that enable us to help the most people, most affordably, but at the same time every experience is unique. Everyone’s response to the drug is unique. Protocols can set some sorts of goal posts, but how you get from one side to the other end of the field is always going to be unique for each person who comes through our clinics. It’s definitely very personalized but we try to create as much structure as we can.

PI: That touches on another side of these treatments: Price. Is there a way to balance high cost and personalized experiences with your goal of reaching as many people as possible?

RL: Our pricing has been structured to make it competitive to a clinical psychologist, and that works out for us for a course of treatment to be just under $300 per session. Some sessions are more expensive than others, but over the course of treatment that works out to about $300 per session, which is not inexpensive. That’s still very expensive for a lot of people. But it’s not priced in the range of a $100,000 package.

We’re constantly exploring ways to try and lower the cost and make it more efficient while still providing the necessary support and guidance, but price is something we’re very cognizant of. Truthfully, and I fully respect people who disagree with this perspective, but we think scaling a business and making it profitable and getting it out there is the best way to lead to downward price pressures. If there’s profitability that means you have more people coming into the system and you can create the proper dynamics of good, healthy competition. I think that’s probably the best way to get these treatments out there and reach the most people.

For more information about Field Trip visit https://www.fieldtriphealth.com.