Approximately 38% of people struggling with substance abuse also battle some form of mental illness. In addition to prescriptions, many people self-medicate with over-the-counter drugs and alcohol. The legalization of recreational cannabis opened the door to holistic alternatives; still, in 2019, 50,000 died from opioids. That same year 40.2 million Americans sought out talk therapy, yet there seems to be a disconnect between effective therapy and drug treatment despite the high demand for pharmaceuticals and 201 billion spent yearly on mental health.
We sat down with Henri Sant-Cassia to find out about the next revolution in health and rehab through psychedelic treatments. Sant-Cassia is the board of directors at Better Life Pharma, and he is the co-founder of the largest active global venture fund investing in psychedelic and cannabinoid medicine, The Conscious Fund.
Henri's conviction in psychedelic medicine is due to his understanding that patients either become resilient to traditional drug treatment or become addicted to opioids in search of chronic pain management. "We're facing a disaster in terms of mental health."
In addition to The Conscious Fund of over 60 million, Henri has worked with plant-based medicine companies and nonprofits for ten years. He is working to help revolutionize and destigmatize how people view psychedelic drug treatment.
"I think it's pretty clear that for a large percentage of the patient population that has either got mental health problems or addictions, the status quo is simply not working", Henri says, "We're trying to encourage a revolution in the way that mental health and addiction treatment is delivered based on psychedelic enhanced treatments."
While this idea may seem brand new to most, Henri explains that the issues with mental health that we face are not. He describes the brain as a racehorse, easily spooked due to its complexity. "The brain is very delicate. It's very complex, it's very susceptible to damage, brain chemistry problems, incorrect thought patterns.", he says. For as long as mental health challenges have existed, so have our attempts to treat them.
Henri explains that what was once considered an enlightened method of healing slowly became stigmatized in the last 100 years, but psychedelics trace back to prehistory. "We've always used psychedelic compounds in a healing or a ceremonial context," Henri says. The ebb and flow of mental health treatment have seen shock therapy talk therapy to prescriptions, but Henri says, "We've then become reliant on prescriptions, some of which are incredibly dangerous. We've become reliant on endless therapy that goes nowhere except your bank account balance is gradually eroded to nothing."
Despite decades of criminalization and misinformation, scientists studied and invested in psychology treatments until the 60s. "There was a complete hiatus, Henri says, "and then you get to the Reagan; "War On Drugs", and everything shut down." but now there is a reawakening to alternative medicine.
Today there are many bio-science startups and new technologies advancing cannabinoids and psychedelic treatment. Henri believes that eventually, this sector will become more popular than cannabis. Despite the many naysayers, Henri joined another venture capitalist to take his mission to the next level and set up a fund. "We knew what those compounds could do from the inside, and we knew other people that knew it too.", He says. "We are the most active early-stage venture capital fund although we're not there yet, the aim is to become the sequoia of psychedelic medicine." The Conscious Fund currently backs 14 investments and also acts as an incubator of ideas and training for companies, clinics, Microdose, and their brand Hive.
Henri hopes that more people will experience the life-changing results he has witnessed in the next ten years. "If you talk to people that take these compounds in the right conditions, that is exactly what they say, and they say, 'my life has changed totally and continues to change. It's not a hypothetical thing. It's already happening; it's just happening to very limited numbers of people."