Human beings seek treatment for any addiction to any substance (or any behavioral act) that is affecting their social development and their ability to lead a productive life.
While these issues have been part of mental health treatment for decades, there is still much work to be done.
Enter the psychedelics industry, which is discovering new ways to tackle tobacco addiction with psilocybin (with tobacco cessation studies piling up new data), drug addiction (findings that psychedelics can replace opioid use), and other behavioral addictions.
Alcohol addiction has been added to the list of psychedelics therapy through the focused work of Awakn Life Sciences (OTC: AWKNF) a Vancouver-based biotechnology company founded in June 2020, that is researching, developing, and delivering psychedelic therapeutics to treat addiction, including the treatment of alcohol use disorder (AUD).
Awakn was reportedly created when founders bought a controlling stake in Dr. Ben Sessa’s private practice, Mandela Therapy Limited. Sessa is now the co-founder and chief medical officer of Awakn.
AUD is a medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences. Considered a brain disorder, AUD can be mild, moderate, or severe. Lasting changes in the brain caused by alcohol misuse perpetuate AUD and make individuals vulnerable to relapse, adding to the treatment difficulty.
In mid-March, Awakn Clinics in London got Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) formal approval to begin treatments for addiction and mental health. This flagship clinic is Awakn’s third clinic, adding to the company’s two operating clinics located in Bristol, England, and Oslo, Norway.
The clinics use ketamine-assisted therapy to treat addiction and several mental health disorders, including AUD, using a treatment protocol developed in their recently published Phase II a/b clinical trial.
This study demonstrated that treatment with three infusions of ketamine was well tolerated in patients with AUD and was associated with more days of abstinence from alcohol at the 6-month follow-up.
In February, Awakn filed a patent application for a new chemical series of entactogen-like molecules. Entactogen-like molecules are a class of psychoactive substances that produce distinctive emotional and social effects that Awakn believes have the potential to treat both substance and behavioral addictions, according to a press release.
These molecules have the potential to treat addiction by delivering improved efficacy in a shorter treatment time.
As a result of that discovery about Entactogen-like molecules, it’s not just alcohol addiction that Awakn is working on. In January, the company decided to expand its existing ketamine study to include three other behavioral addictions, including binge eating disorder, compulsive sexual behavior, and internet gaming disorder. To back up the need for expanding in these new directions, Awakn cites facts that binge eating disorder affects up to 110 million people globally; internet gaming disorder affects 238 million, and sexually compulsive behavior affects up to 350 million.
The expanded study is to be led by Celia Morgan, Awakn’s head of ketamine-assisted therapy for addiction, and a professor of psychopharmacology at the University of Exeter, U.K. Morgan will investigate a new treatment approach for these behavioral addictions, exploring and monitoring whether ketamine can increase neuroplasticity using electroencephalogram (EEG).
With ground-breaking work like this in its future, Awakn is seen as one of the top psychedelics companies in the industry.
But like many psychedelics companies, Awakn is still in the clinical trial stage of psychedelics development. It trades on both the NEO and the OTCQB and is generally trending down these days, as are a lot of psychedelics. Awakn recorded its first revenue hit of $31,737 in late 2021. But there is still a lot going on with the company.
On the plus side, Awakn’s recent acquisition of the exclusive rights to MDMA research from Imperial College London to investigate the role of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in treating patients with AUD is seen as a giant step forward in treating alcoholism.
And finally, Awakn has arguably one of the strongest science and research teams in the business, including Chief Research Officer David Nutt, psychiatrist and the Edmund J. Safra Professor of Neuropsychopharmacology in the Division of Brain Science, Dept of Medicine, Imperial College London; and Chief Scientific Officer Shaun McNulty, who has over 25 years of industry experience in the neuroscience drug discovery units of a major pharmaceutical company, including Parke-Davis, Pfizer, and GSK. It’s that sort of firepower that keeps investors on the alert about Awakn’s future.