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Mind-Bending Medicine: An Overview of Psychedelic Substances

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psychedelic medicine research infographic

An Overview of Psychedelic Substances

Fueled by a slew of new research, psychedelics may hold the key to treating a multitude of debilitating disorders such as addiction, PTSD, and depression.

But as an industry that has laid dormant for decades, it will need to shed its negative connotations that have limited its potential and undermined new discoveries for so long.

The infographic above showcases data from The Report on Psychedelics which explains seven of the most common psychedelic substances and examines the many mind-bending ways they could radically transform mental health as we know it.

Resurrecting a Stigmatized Industry

Although evidence of humans using psychedelics as medicine dates back thousands of years, it was not until the 1940s that psychiatrists became advocates of their therapeutic potential.

Unfortunately, recreational psychedelics became a symbol of the 1960’s counterculture movement, which contaminated the industry’s reputation. The U.S. responded by introducing the Controlled Substances Analogue Enforcement Act, deeming these drugs illegal and stymying research studies in the process.

Following some new discoveries in the early ‘90s however, psychedelics moved from the hands of festival-goers back to the labs of scientists. Since then, certain substances such as psilocybin have been granted breakthrough therapy status for treating depression by the U.S. FDA.

With these recent developments, new companies and investment opportunities are beginning to emerge in the psychedelics space. But these complex drugs are not always easy to understand—so let’s dive in.

What are Psychedelics?

Psychedelics are psychoactive substances that can alter perception, mood, and cognitive processes. There are two broad classifications of psychedelics that relate to chemical structure.

  • Entheogenic Plants: Plants or fungi that produce chemical substances that can cause hallucinations
  • Synthetic Drugs: Drugs created in laboratory setting to mimic the effects of entheogenic plants

Here are seven of the most common psychedelic substances explained:

DrugCharacteristicsLegal StatusConditions StudiedNumber of Studies/trials
Ayahuasca (Entheogenic plant)Traditional tea used in religious or spiritual rituals, mainly in South America.Not formally prohibited.Major depression1
DMT (Entheogenic plant)Powerful hallucinogen produced by multiple plants, humans, and animals with an unusually short bioavailability period.U.S.: Schedule I
Canada: Schedule III
UN: Schedule I
UK: Class A
Healthy subjects1
Ibogaine (Entheogenic plant)Derived from the tabernanthe iboga plant, a shrub found in the rainforest of western Africa.U.S.: Schedule I
Canada: Controlled
UN: Uncontrolled
UK: Illegal
Drug dependence, alcoholism2
Psilocybin (Entheogenic plant)Naturally occurring psychedelic chemical found in more than 100 species of mushrooms.U.S: Schedule 1
Canada: Schedule III
UN: Schedule I
UK: Class A
Depression, OCD, anorexia, migraines, cluster headaches, substance abuse40
Ketamine (Synthetic)Commonly used as an anesthetic and administered intravenously (IV) or intramuscularly (IM).U.S.: Schedule III
Canada: Schedule I
UN: Uncontrolled
UK: Class B
Depression, mental health disorders, suicidal ideations, pain and related conditions, healthy subjects925
LSD (Synthetic)First derived from ergot, a fungus that develops on grains such as rye.U.S: Schedule I
Canada: Schedule III
UN: Schedule I
UK: Class A
Cluster headaches, depression, anxiety, chronic pain, Healthy subjects
12
MDMA (Synthetic)Typically associated with rave culture, as it imparts feelings of joy combined with increased energy levels.U.S.: Schedule I
Canada: Schedule I
UN: Schedule I
UK: Class A
PTSD, autism, alcohol use disorder, Healthy subjects
43

To avoid history repeating itself, Johns Hopkins University has created the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research with the aim of enforcing strict standards of scientific rigor for the industry to follow.

On the Precipice of Change

With sound scientific evidence and standards coming into place, it’s no surprise that investors—from bestselling author Tim Ferris to several established cannabis companies—are supporting the born-again industry.

Given the industry’s foothold in recreational use, a therapeutic comeback may be a tough pill for many to swallow. However, it is possible that we are on the precipice of not only a psychedelic revolution but more importantly, a mental health one.

“Psychedelics, used responsibly and with proper caution, would be for psychiatry what the microscope is for biology and medicine or the telescope is for astronomy.”

—Stanislav Grof

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Shapes of Recovery: When Will the Global Economy Bounce Back?

Economic recovery from COVID-19 could come in four shapes—L, U, W, and V. What do they mean, and what do global CEOs see as the most likely?

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The Shape of Economic Recovery, According to CEOs

Is the glass half full, or half empty?

Whenever the economy is put through the ringer, levels of optimism and pessimism about its potential recovery can vary greatly. The current state mid-pandemic is no exception.

This graphic first details the various shapes that economic recovery can take, and what they mean. We then dive into which of the four scenarios are perceived the most likely to occur, based on predictions made by CEOs from around the world.

The ABCs of Economic Recovery

Economic recovery comes in four distinct shapes—L, U, W, and V. Here’s what each of these are characterized by, and how long they typically last.

  • L-shape
    This scenario exhibits a sharp decline in the economy, followed by a slow recovery period. It’s often punctuated by persistent unemployment, taking several years to recoup back to previous levels.
  • U-shape
    Also referred to as the “Nike Swoosh” recovery, in this scenario the economy stagnates for a few quarters and up to two years, before experiencing a relatively healthy rise back to its previous peak.
  • W-shape
    This scenario offers a tempting promise of recovery, dips back into a sharp decline, and then finally enters the full recovery period of up to two years. This is also known as a “double-dip recession“, similar to what was seen in the early 1980s.
  • V-shape
    In this best-case scenario, the sharp decline in the economy is quickly and immediately followed by a rapid recovery back to its previous peak in less than a year, bolstered especially by economic measures and strong consumer spending.

Another scenario not covered here is the Z-shape, defined by a boom after pent-up demand. However, it doesn’t quite make the cut for the present pandemic situation, as it’s considered even more optimistic than a V-shaped recovery.

Depending on who you ask, the sentiments about a post-pandemic recovery differ greatly. So which of these potential scenarios are we really dealing with?

How CEOs Think The Economy Could Recover

The think tank The Conference Board surveyed over 600 CEOs worldwide, to uncover how they feel about the likelihood of each recovery shape playing out in the near future.

The average CEO felt that economic recovery will follow a U-shaped trajectory (42%), eventually exhibiting a slow recovery coming out of Q3 of 2020—a moderately optimistic view.

However, geography seems to play a part in these CEO estimates of how rapidly things might revert back to “normal”. Over half of European CEOs (55%) project a U-shaped recovery, which is significantly higher than the global average. This could be because recent COVID-19 hotspots have mostly shifted to other areas outside of the continent, such as the U.S., India, and Brazil.

Here’s how responses vary by region:

RegionL-shapeU-shapeW-shapeV-shape
Global (N=606)32%42%16%11%
U.S. (N=103)26%42%23%9%
Europe (N=110)29%55%12%4%
China (N=122)25%43%11%21%
Japan (N=95)49%26%23%1%
Gulf Region (N=16)57%26%17%-

In the U.S. and Japan, 23% of CEOs expect a second contraction to occur, meaning that economic activity could undergo a W-shape recovery. Both countries have experienced quite the hit, but there are stark differences in their resultant unemployment rates—15% at its peak in the U.S., but a mere 2.6% in Japan.

In China, 21% of CEOs—or one in five—anticipate a quick, V-shaped recovery. This is the most optimistic outlook of any region, and with good reason. Although economic growth contracted by 6.8% in the first quarter, China has bounced back to a 3.2% growth rate in the second quarter.

Finally, Gulf Region CEOs feel the most pessimistic about potential economic recovery. In the face of an oil shock, 57% predict the economy will see an L-shaped recovery that could result in depression-style stagnation in years to come.

The Economic Recovery, According to Risk Analysts

At the end of the day, CEO opinions are all over the map on the potential shape of the economic recovery—and this variance likely stems from geography, cultural biases, and of course the status of their own individual countries and industries.

Despite this, portions of all cohorts saw some possibility of an extended and drawn-out recovery. Earlier in the year, risk analysts surveyed by the World Economic Forum had similar thoughts, projecting a prolonged recession as the top risk of the post-COVID fallout.

It remains to be seen whether this will ultimately indeed be the trajectory we’re in store for.

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The $88 Trillion World Economy in One Chart

The world’s total GDP crested $88 trillion in 2019—but how are the current COVID-19 economic contractions affecting its future outlook?

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The $88 Trillion World Economy in One Chart

The global economy can seem like an abstract concept, yet it influences our everyday lives in both obvious and subtle ways. Nowhere is this clearer than in the current economic state amid the throes of the pandemic.

This voronoi-style visualization from HowMuch relies on gross domestic product (GDP) data from the World Bank to paint a picture of the global economy—which crested $87.8 trillion in 2019.

Editor’s note: Annual data on economic output is a lagging indicator, and is released the following year by organizations such as the World Bank. The figures in this diagram provide a snapshot of the global economy in 2019, but do not necessarily represent the impact of recent developments such as COVID-19.

Top 10 Countries by GDP (2019)

In the one-year period since the last release of official data in 2018, the global economy grew approximately $2 trillion in size—or about 2.3%.

The United States continues to have the top GDP, accounting for nearly one-quarter of the world economy. China also continued to grow its share of global GDP, going from 15.9% to 16.3%.

RankCountryGDP% of Global GDP
#1🇺🇸 U.S.$21.4T24.4%
#2🇨🇳 China$14.3T16.3%
#3🇯🇵 Japan$5.1T5.8%
#4🇩🇪 Germany$3.9T4.4%
#5🇮🇳 India$2.9T3.3%
#6🇬🇧 UK$2.8T3.2%
#7🇫🇷 France$2.7T3.1%
#8🇮🇹 Italy$2.0T2.3%
#9🇧🇷 Brazil$1.8T2.1%
#10🇨🇦 Canada$1.7T2.0%
Top 10 Countries$58.7 trillion66.9%

In recent years, the Indian economy has continued to have an upward trajectory—now pulling ahead of both the UK and France—to become one of the world’s top five economies.

In aggregate, these top 10 countries combine for over two-thirds of total global GDP.

2020 Economic Contractions

So far this year, multiple countries have experienced temporary economic contractions, including many of the top 10 countries listed above.

The following interactive chart from Our World in Data helps to give us some perspective on this turbulence, comparing Q2 economic figures against those from the same quarter last year.

One of the hardest hit economies has been Peru. The Latin American country, which is about the 50th largest in terms of GDP globally, saw its economy contract by 30.2% in Q2 despite efforts to curb the virus early.

Spain and the UK are also feeling the impact, posting quarterly GDP numbers that are 22.1% and 21.7% smaller respectively.

Meanwhile, Taiwan and South Korea are two countries that may have done the best at weathering the COVID-19 storm. Both saw minuscule contractions in a quarter where the global economy seemed to grind to a halt.

Projections Going Forward

According to the World Bank, the global economy could ultimately shrink 5.2% in 2020—the deepest cut since WWII.

See below for World Bank projections on GDP in 2020 for when the dust settles, as well as the subsequent potential for recovery in 2021.

Country/ Region / Economy Type2020 Growth Projection2021E Rebound Forecast
United States-6.1%4.0%
Euro Area-9.1%4.5%
Advanced economies-7.0%3.9%
Emerging economies-2.5%4.6%
East Asia and Pacific-0.5%6.6%
Europe and Central Asia-4.7%3.6%
Latin America and the Caribbean-7.2%2.8%
Middle East and North Africa-4.2%2.3%
South Asia-2.7%2.8%
Sub-Saharan Africa-2.8%3.1%
Global Growth-5.2%4.2%

Source: World Bank Global Economic Prospects, released June 2020

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