Dr. Suresh Muthukumaraswamy — LSD Microdosing, Classical Psychedelics vs. Ketamine, Science and Speed in New Zealand, Placebo Options, and The Infinite Possibilities of Studying Mind-Altering Compounds
Dr. Suresh Muthukumaraswamy completed his PhD in Psychology at the University of Auckland in 2005 after which he joined the newly established Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre as a postdoctoral fellow. While at Cardiff, he started research work with psychedelics in 2011 in collaboration with Professor David Nutt and Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris investigating the neuroimaging correlates of the psychedelic drugs psilocybin and LSD. In 2014, Suresh received a prestigious Rutherford Discovery Fellowship and returned to the University of Auckland where he works in the School of Pharmacy at the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences and leads the Auckland Neuropsychopharmacology Research Group.
Suresh’s main research interests are in understanding how therapies alter brain function and behavior and in testing methodologies to measure these changes in both healthy individuals and patient groups — particularly in depressed patients.
At the University of Auckland, he has conducted clinical trials in depressed patients involving ketamine, scopolamine, and transcranial magnetic stimulation. He has received several Health Research Council of New Zealand research grants to support this work, including a grant to investigate the effects of microdoses of LSD on brain and cognitive function. Suresh has published 117 papers, with his work receiving 8000+ citations.
This special episode of the podcast is a live recording from an event hosted by the Edmund Hillary Fellowship (EHF). EHF began in 2016 as a pilot immigration program and has matured into a fellowship of more than 500 technologists, creatives, investors, entrepreneurs, educators, and systems designers, committed to New Zealand as a base camp for global impact. From more than 50 different nationalities, including New Zealand, fellows span a range of high-value sectors: media, education, cleantech, venture capital, and mental health initiatives/research just to name a few.
EHF and its fellows aim to make a meaningful impact in New Zealand/Aotearoa with projects that often have global applications.
[03:44] Current mental health and addiction trend lines in New Zealand.
[05:37] Compounds Suresh has researched.
[07:13] Does scopolamine have potential as an antidepressant?
[09:55] How ketamine differs from other psychedelics.
[16:20] The durability of antidepressant effects.
[21:45] How Suresh picks the focus of his research (example: LSD microdosing).
[24:43] Why New Zealand is unique for fostering psychedelic innovation.
[31:01] How could New Zealand improve the impact of scientific research?
[35:13] Inspiring research currently underway in New Zealand.
[37:40] Obstacles to getting ketamine labeled as an antidepressant.
[40:39] Ketamine research by University of Otago’s Professor Paul Glue.
[41:48] Future studies Suresh would like to see (and their challenges).
[47:25] The difficulty of applying placebo controls to psychedelic research.
[54:49] Getting the public to benefit from this research in a timely manner.
[58:17] Risks of microdosing and relying on unregulated supplies.
[1:02:21] Open science replication crises.
[1:03:56] Training clinical personnel in new science as it becomes available.
[1:07:20] Where can New Zealanders access psychedelic therapy now?
[1:08:25] Avoiding another 50 years of psychedelic research darkness.
[1:13:08] Is any of Suresh’s research focused on addiction recovery?
[1:14:08] Why women haven’t been as widely included in these studies as men.
[1:15:56] Where aspiring psychedelic researchers should focus their education.
[1:17:02] Red flags in the private sector.
[1:20:14] Parting thoughts.
For show notes and past guests on The Tim Ferriss Show, please visit tim.blog/podcast.