Will psychedelics produce the next longevity drug?

Dr Halland Chen on longevity medicine, mindset and the potential of psychedelics to improve human longevity.

This November, researchers, clinicians, and investors will descend on Miami, Florida for the annual Wonderland conference. This year, the world’s leading psychedelics conference is expanding its focus to include longevity for the first time, welcoming top speakers from across the field, from Bryan Johnson to Aubrey de Grey.

Through a series of keynotes, round table and panel discussions, and town hall open mic sessions, the event aims to explore the increasingly linked topics of psychedelic medicine, mental health, and longevity medicine.

Longevity.Technology: Every month it seems, more and more research is highlighting the connection between mental health and longevity – from accelerated biological aging to reduced life expectancy. With psychedelics simultaneously demonstrating compelling results in the treatment of mental conditions from depression to PTSD, the synergies between longevity and psychedelic medicine are clear. We caught up with leading longevity physician Dr Halland Chen to tap into his views on recent developments in longevity medicine and its links with the psychedelic world.

One aspect of longevity that Dr Halland feels isn’t often talked about is the impact of someone’s mindset.

“We’re not taught about how to think about our health, and I believe a lot of people have problems with their health, because their mindset is incorrect,” he says. “Our tendency is to only deal with our health when it’s a real problem. But do you really want to be that person who only takes their health seriously when things go really bad?”

Psychedelics’ longevity potential

This aspect of mindset also feeds into the importance of mental health, its importance in longevity, and ultimately the potential of psychedelics to change the narrative.

“I think longevity and mental health are highly interrelated,” says Dr Halland. “With anxiety, depression, and PTSD on the rise, we have an epidemic of mental health issues. Depression leads to stress, which in turn is linked to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.”

As far as Dr Halland is concerned, the research happening in psychedelics is compelling.

“It’s not a new field, but it hasn’t really been explored as deeply as it could or should have been, which is why conferences like Wonderland are so great,” he says. “Psychedelics have been already shown to help with depression, and there’s now research about how they can increase neural connections, which may also help neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s and dementia.”

“In many ways, I think that psychedelics may produce much more than just therapies for mental health – I think they may result in therapeutics for human longevity. Because if you’re not having depression, you’re not having anxiety. This leads to lower stress, which means you have less cardiovascular disease, less neurodegenerative disorders and this can allow for a healthier brain. These are among the body’s top major systems that affect your overall healthspan… And it could probably go deeper. I wouldn’t be surprised if psychedelics influenced things like inflammation and cellular energy too.”

A journey to longevity

Dr Halland is a double-board certified physician who practices functional and regenerative medicine, alongside his training in interventional pain management. He says his initial interest in helping the body heal faster led to a natural progression into longevity medicine.

“Thinking about how to accelerate healing in the body, led to questions about how to decrease inflammation in the body, which is a key longevity question,” says Dr Halland. “This ultimately led me to explore what can be done from a personalized medicine standpoint to address things that traditional medicine doesn’t really cover. While my training is as an MD myself, I would say a lot of traditionally trained MDs are not looking at patients from a longevity perspective – they’re looking for diseases.”

The field of longevity and functional medicine is a growing area for medical professionals worldwide.

“Longevity seems to be the new buzzword in health, but longevity is essentially just a measurement of what is it to be healthy,” says Dr Halland. “There are so many of us who are not as healthy as we want to be. And that’s due to many factors – we have a very fast-paced world, our environment is changing, food quality is going down, and so on. And I think we’re seeing changes in diseases as a result of this – I’ve seen so many people developing early cancers that you wouldn’t expect to get sick. I really think we’re entering a new world of chronic medical conditions and prevalence.”

Longevity vs traditional medicine

While he is quick to stress that traditional medicine, and its focus on managing things like high blood pressure, diabetes, and liver function, is still very important, Dr Halland says that there is much more to health and being healthy.

“Many people’s health may not be ‘abnormal’ from a traditional medical perspective but may still have things going wrong with their gut, for example, which is a very big longevity topic nowadays,” he says. “Also, things like hormones aren’t classically managed in patients until they are much older, but we’re now seeing more and more people with hormone issues at much younger ages. It’s not uncommon to see patients in their twenties or thirties having hormone disruptions.”

Patients seeking out a longevity physician have often become frustrated with traditional medicine, says Dr Halland.  

“Let’s say you’re somebody in your 30s, 40s, even 50s, who isn’t diabetic, doesn’t have high blood pressure or risk of heart disease – what can you do about your health?” he says. “We now know that there are lots of things that can be done. Longevity addresses topics like energy levels, mood, and sleep, which are often not formally taught in medicine or even have treatment protocols.”

While the scope of longevity medicine is admittedly vast and often highly specific to the individual, Dr Halland says there are some key areas that everyone should be thinking about.

“There are definitely some basics,” he says. “Diet, for example, is an easy one. And while not everyone needs to be gluten free, if you reduce the gluten in your diet, you’re probably going to feel better overall because it’s quite inflammatory for most people. A good healthy gut protocol is a great way for people to start in general.”

“Then I think it’s about getting a good sleep protocol, meaning getting an adequate amount of rest, but also knowing what kind of sleep quality you’re getting. Another key factor is any form of exercise routines. Diet, exercise, supplementation and sleep may sound simplistic, but there’s so much more science and structure around all these areas now, and that’s where longevity medicine comes in.”

The future of longevity medicine

Of course, there’s also a lot more going on in longevity medicine than just diet, exercise and sleep, and Dr Halland is keen to talk about some of the more cutting-edge aspects of the field.

“I love methylation testing, which means you can actually determine your physiological age compared to your chronological age,” he says. “Methylation testing can also provide insight into potential problems that could be happening in your medical condition.”

Dr Halland describes himself as an avid proponent of pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapies and anything that supports mitochondrial health – his clinic offers intravenous NAD infusions, regenerative medicine, and functional medicine testing among many other services designed to help his clients have more energy, improved moods, and fixing medical issues at the root cause of the problem.

“I’m also very into microbiome testing, because your gut health can lead to a lot of other health problems,” he says. “95% of our serotonin is made in the gut, so a bad microbiome can affect things that can regulate your mood and hormones.”

Looking to the future, Dr Halland says that the impact of artificial intelligence on longevity medicine is likely to be profound.

“The quality of a doctor is broadly based on the number of years’ experience they have, and the number of people that they have seen – but an AI can potentially see and learn from 10 million patients!” he says. “There are not enough days in your lifetime to see 10 million patients, so I think AI is going to do a really good job in this field. For example, we’ve seen young people with cancers that have only been caught by accident because they happened to have a scan for something else, so I think the potential preventative scanning is going to be interesting.”

“Likewise, AI’s ability to screen and diagnose will only become more and more sophisticated with time and knowledge, so the future could hold quite a lot of positive potential as an adjunct tool for doctors and patients.”

Interested in attending Wonderland? Access tickets and speaker/sponsorship/exhibitor opportunities here.