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  • Florian Naudet

"There’s nothing in headache medicine that can really do that" Really?

With a group of independent experts, we were very surprised to see that the scientific journal Nature published a series of 12 news stories about psychedelics as part of a Nature Outlook sponsored by Atai Life Science.


Let's take one of those stories that spins the results of a small paper about pain relief with psilocybin. It states that based on 10 patients the drugs show very promising results. The paper quote a scientist reporting that “there’s nothing in headache medicine that can really do that". I would rather say that there is nothing in evidence based medicine that can really support this claim. The report concludes "Careful not to repeat the mistakes that led to the opioid epidemic, researchers are edging forwards, one small trial at a time." This is incorrect. The problem of the opioid epidemic was not lying in evaluation of efficacy of opiates -that are surely very effective drugs to relieve pain, at least in the short term- but on safety issues that are inherent in chronic conditions. Such safety issues arise over the long term, especially when the drugs are delivered to large groups of patients, and are related to problems of tolerance and dependence. Evidence for efficacy is based on small short term trials. These trials are not able to capture such safety issues. Another part of the roots of the opioid epidemic was aggressive lobbying by companies with vested interests. This lobbying was based on papers published in high profile journals. The many errors of the past seems to be repeated with such a series of news stories supported by financial support from Atai life science. Atai life science is a biotech that indeed describes various programs on psychedelics on its website. Sponsoring such news stories in a top journal is surely a fantastic marketing trick but it might also do more harm than good.


Our team has pointed toward some of those problems about MDMA-assisted psychotherapy and about esketamine. We proposed to write a critical evidence based rebuttal. We were offered 250 words.

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