Totally psychedelic: How a Metro Vancouver lab is reimagining Ayahuasca (PHOTOS)

Dec 8 2022, 5:09 pm

A lab in Metro Vancouver has created medical-grade Ayahuasca, and we got to take a psychedelic tour of the operation.

Hidden among the many buildings and parking lots at Burnaby’s BCIT is a building on Wayburne Drive. Inside that building, the science around psychedelics like Ayahuasca and psilocybin is evolving.

Filament Health is the group inside that building, and it’s exploring how psychedelics can change how we view mental health.

Daily Hive got an exclusive look at the inner workings of Filament Health’s psychedelics lab and some of the things it is doing to advance how people view drugs like Ayahuasca and psilocybin mushrooms.

Filament’s operation is incredibly unique, and there likely isn’t anything like it in Canada, North America, or maybe even beyond.

Filament CEO Ben Lightburn told us about the Metro Vancouver lab and its goals around Ayahuasca and other psychedelics.

Ayahuasca 101

metro vancouver ayahuasca lab

Dana Toerien/Shutterstock

If you’ve never heard of, or only have heard about Ayahuasca in passing, here’s a bit of a primer.

Ayahuasca is a sacred medicine typically found in South America. Those who might embark on the journey — and it is a journey — of trying it must do so only after knowing the risks and the preparations.

Potential benefits include alleviating symptoms of depression, helping those with substance abuse issues, and increasing self-awareness and creativity.

It’s an incredibly spiritual journey.

The sacred brew itself isn’t just one plant turned into a drink. Instead, two plants are involved (banisteriopsis caapi and psychotria viridis). At some point in history, someone somehow figured out that you needed to combine these two plants to produce the effects that Ayahuasca offers.

Those include the typical effects one might associate with psychedelics, like hallucinations and euphoria, but something much more intense than a dose of mushrooms. If you’re unfamiliar with Ayahuasca, you may be more familiar with one of the components associated with it, DMT.

Why medical grade?

metro vancouver ayahuasca lab

Fancy science stuff at Filament’s lab (Amir Ali/Daily Hive)

Lightburn told Daily Hive that he has been in the field of botanical extraction for his whole career.

“There didn’t really seem to be anybody focused on making natural psychedelics,” Lightburn said.

Instead, other organizations have primarily focused on synthesized products.

The reason Filament Health is embarking on its own journey with Ayahuasca, and other substances, is simple.

Anyone who takes a dose of mushrooms or another type of psychedelic like Ayahuasca in its natural form can’t say for certain the effects it will produce. Two portions of dried mushrooms given to two people may have different results.

The different components of Ayahuasca are broken down at different levels. (Amir Ali/Daily Hive)

Filament wants to be able to do just that; to measure the exact amount of the magical thing in these naturally occurring plants and standardize and recreate that in a pill form as an example.

Think of it the same way as going to a cannabis dispensary. When you buy a pre-roll, it’ll show you the amount of TCH in that pre-roll.

The advancements are thanks to an “innovative drug development technology,” which allows Filament to naturally extract the plants to create a stable pill.

While Lightburn says there’s nothing wrong with the synthesized product, it’s possible that some elements of the natural product, which may be beneficial to the whole experience, are lost in that synthetic process.

Mushroom Kingdom

Amir Ali/Daily Hive

Ayahuasca isn’t the only psychedelic Filament is working with.

We got to take a tour of some of the mushrooms that are being cultivated in the lab, thanks to Filament’s resident Mycologist, John.

We were astounded at how different each of the species looked.

Amir Ali/Daily Hive

Amir Ali/Daily Hive

Microdosing with psilocybin has increased in popularity over the last several years.

metro vancouver ayahuasca

Amir Ali/Daily Hive

Amir Ali/Daily Hive

When can you get your Ayahuasca pill?

metro vancouver ayahuasca

Filament Health

In Canada, there’s something called the Special Access Program. In this program, Canadians and doctors can apply to have access to experimental therapies. Since Filament’s drug candidates are in clinical trials, people in that program can request access.

However, Lightburn says it takes time to develop a pharmaceutical product available to the masses.

He thinks it will be another five to seven years before we see an approved Ayahuasca drug.

This area of research is likely one we as a society are only seeing the tip of the iceberg of, but based on our tour at Filament and our conversation with Lightburn; it seems like we are on the verge of an explosion when it comes to the world of psychedelics.

Whatever the future holds, our tour of Filament’s lab was undoubtedly a trip.

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