Issue No. 292: Psyched

Today's issue is presented by

Take your health into your own hands.

Psychedelic medicine keeps getting tripped up.

Trip Advisor

Psychedelics—a class of drugs altering thoughts and sensory perception—come with stigma.

Federally banned since the ’70s, hallucinogens like psilocybin (magic mushrooms), MDMA (ecstasy), LSD, and ketamine have operated underground.

Benefiting from new research, they’re being rebranded as a mainstream mental health solution.

  • MDMA improved PTSD for 86% of drug trial participants, with 71% entering remission.
  • Paired with talk therapy, single doses of psilocybin and ketamine rapidly improved treatment-resistant depression.
  • A dose of LSD led to a 48% remission rate in generalized anxiety sufferers, earning FDA breakthrough status.

Healing the brain via “neural plasticity,” the drugs are being tested to treat dementiaalcohol use disorderOCDTBIs, and more.

But, only ketamine is clinically approved, while the others remain limited to lab settings.

The latest: A major setback, an FDA advisory panel ruled against MDMA for PTSD this June, claiming the risks outweigh the benefits — dashing optimism for medical approval in August.

In the Wings

Psychedelics have failed to win over regulators, but the public is getting on board.

With 61% in favor of therapeutic legalization and half arguing for decriminalization, psychedelic use is surging, along with drug seizures and poison control calls.

Seeing a cannabis-like inevitability, brands are preparing consumer offerings.

Dealers. In January, psychedelic biotech firms raised $163M across five deals, with drug revenue across the sector expected to be $4B by 2029.

  • At the center of the MDMA ruling, Lykos Therapeutics (founded by pioneering nonprofit MAPS), raised $100M in January.
  • Beckley Psytech, a firm developing 5-MeO-DMT therapies (from Sonoran Desert toads), received $50M from atai Life Sciences.
  • Megadeals in psilocybin, COMPASS raised $285M and Cybin landed $150M, while LSD-focused MindMed secured $175M in a private placement.

Another approach, Axsome, Delix, and Psylo are developing non-hallucinogenic variants to replace SSRIs.

Healers. Tapping into legal drugs, ketamine therapy platform Mindbloom has delivered 275K sessions across 36 states, while competitor Innerwell gained insurance coverage in NY and CA.

Vertically integrating, Beckley Psytech’s venture arm acquired Nue Life last year to support care delivery, making training, support groups, and 1:1 coaching more accessible.

Suffering setbacks, Ketamine Wellness Centers shuttered, while Field Trip Health changed hands amid closures. Opening doors, social wellness clubs Othership and John Mackey’s Love.Life are eyeing psychedelics upon legalization.

Trippers. Per GWI, wellness travel will account for 8.3% of all tourism by 2027, bolstered by psychedelic retreats.

Finding legal havens, Jamaica’s MycoMeditations and ONE Retreats, Oregon’s Odyssey, and Behold’s Costa Rica, Mexico, and Portugal escapes bypass legislation.

Side Effects

As more people microdose and self-medicate, adverse reactions—from headaches to heart issues and long-term psychosis—are risks, especially without integrative support.

And in the case of ayahuasca, mescaline, and 5-MeO-DMT, cultural and environmental exploitation pose deeper problems.

Takeaway: 13M Americans have PTSD, 18% have depression, and a third feel lonely every day. Searching for hope, self-experimentation is rising — making the approval of clinical pathways even more pressing.

🎙 On the Podcast

Osman Khan, co-founder & CEO of Squared Circles

Squared Circles co-founder & CEO Osman Khan discusses building health and wellness brands.

A specialized venture studio, Squared Circles redesigns everyday products to be better for people and planet. Pushing innovation, its portfolio includes Mud\WTR and Algae Cooking Club.

We also cover: using science and AI to vet ideas, creating for the conscious consumer, and untapped opportunities within wellness.

Listen to today’s episode here.

🍻 Athletic Brewing hits $800M valuation

The nonalcoholic beer brand added $50M in funding to boost production and expand global retail operations.

Cheers. No longer a buzzkill, Athletic’s NA craft beers are in high demand:

  • Sales grew 60% YTD through June.
  • It holds 19% of the nonalcoholic beer market.
  • It became a top-20 US brewer by volume last year, making 258K barrels.

Keeping pace, in June, the company bought Ballast Point Brewing’s San Diego facility — doubling its US production.

Sober-curious. CEO Bill Shufelt says Athletic Brewing wasn’t created to replace full-ABV beer. Targeting the 41% of Americans seeking to reduce—but not eliminate—alcohol, its beverages are a healthier stand-in for social gatherings and recreational pursuits.

Punchline: Unlike functional beverages, NA beer is surging for what’s not in it. With younger generations ditching alcohol, more sober swaps will follow — and Athletic will be ready for another round.

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📈 High-performance personal care gains traction

Catering to athletes and active lifestyles, sweat-proof skincare is scaling up.

  • Emphasizing suncare, Kelly Slater’s DTC brand Freaks of Nature launched in May.
  • Targeting teen athletes, Olympic rugby player Ilona Maher released Medalist this month.
  • Selling post-sweat luxury, OffCourt’s unisex lineup spans deodorant, perfume, and more.

Fresh-faced. An early mover, Naomi Osaka’s KINLÒ rolled out “functional skincare” for melanated skin in 2021, while Ursa Major and Oars + Alps make products for outdoor enthusiasts.

Expanding reach, the global clean beauty market is set to hit $15B by 2028.

Look good, feel good. A concurrent trend, athlete-focused beauty is catching on.

Fresh off an Under Armour NIL deal, the Cavinder twins joined Hustle Beauty as co-founders, Serena Williams launched WYN Beauty in April, and Glossier partnered with the WNBA.

While men are dissolving stereotypes by investing in wellness routines, women’s sports stars are dismantling the notion that fitness x femininity don’t mix.

Looking ahead: Historically seen as feminine, science-backed wellness has made skincare a matter of health. Whether to avoid toxins or wrinkles, more people are paying attention to what goes into their pores.

📰 News & Notes

  • OpenAI, Thrive Global launch AI health coach.
  • RTD electrolyte brand Cadence kicks off US distribution.
  • London firm Feldspar readies first sensor-enabled running track.
  • Nonalcoholic bev retailer Boisson plots comeback post bankruptcy.
  • Aussie operator One Playground unveils Urban Oasis wellness club.
  • US Navy taps Oura to track sleep and fatigue among sailors, Marines.
  • FTC report: Pharmacy benefit managers inflate prescription drug costs.
  • FDA bans brominated vegetable oil (BVO) in food. [Re-read: Ditching Seed Oils]
  • Int’l Golf Federation, TMRW Sports partner to harness new tech, increase participation.
  • Fitt Talent is hiring for roles at top health & wellness companies — from equipment and activewear brands to fitness and sauna studios.

💰 Money Moves

  • NA beer maker Athletic Brewing added $50M in a funding round led by General Atlantic.
  • Swedish mental health platform Meela raised €2.6M ($2.8M) in a seed round led by Dutch VC Peak Capital.
  • Fitness studio SaaS provider Gymdesk landed a $32.5M investment from Five Elms Capital.
  • HigherEd mental health provider Uwill acquired competitor Virtual Care Group.
  • Functional electrolyte drink maker Wet Hydration closed a $1.5M funding round.
  • Better-for-you frozen waffle brand Evergreen secured $5.48M in a new funding round.
  • ZICO Coconut Water secured an undisclosed investment from tennis star Naomi Osaka.
  • Medical lab provider Quest Diagnostics acquired Canadian diagnostics company LifeLabs.
  • Stress-reducing wearable maker Roga closed a $1.2M pre seed round.
  • Clean personal care company Seaweed Bath Co. acquired natural beauty brand Andalou Naturals.

Today’s newsletter was brought to you by Anthony Vennare, Joe Vennare, Ryan Deer, and Jasmina Breen. 

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