Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps
At the year-end 2021 company gathering, President Michael Bronner surprised employees by announcing a new company benefit for 2022: ketamine-assisted therapy (KAT).
Liz Kost, Packaging Production Specialist, was in the crowd for her first holiday bash: “He introduced the benefit by opening up to the entire company about his own mental health struggles,” she related, “He had been in the throes of depression recently, with terrible insomnia to boot. I could relate to that dark place Mike spoke of.”
How did Dr. Bronner’s come to the decision to offer this benefit?
Like all companies, the pandemic highlighted the extent and the depth of mental health challenges Bronner’s faced.
“Our family and company are no strangers to depression and anxiety,” said Michael Bronner. “We are deeply concerned about the mental health crisis society is facing, especially in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.
One of the company’s core principles is to “Treat Employees Like Family”.
“The health and wellbeing of our employees is the primary driver in how we think about benefits and compensation,” says Michael and true to their beliefs, employee’s health insurance is fully covered with the company also providing up to $7,500 in child-care assistance.
Likewise, there is a firm commitment by the leadership team to ensure equitable compensation and profit sharing through company-wide bonuses.
In July 2023, Enthea published the results for KAT patients seen at the primary clinic treating people covered under the Dr. Bronner's benefit plan.
During the first year, 7% of overall health plan members completed their physician-recommended KAT treatment regimen, which includes medical and psychiatric intake, preparatory sessions, ketamine medicine sessions, and therapy sessions to integrate the experiences into their daily lives.
The data revealed eye-opening symptom score reductions for patients diagnosed with various conditions:
These findings hold significant weight, especially considering that a substantial percentage of patients do not respond to antidepressants, and talk therapy proves effective for only about 40% of individuals. All treatments under the Dr. Bronner’s-sponsored benefit were provided by Flow Integrative, Enthea’s flagship Credentialed Provider in San Diego, who partnered with Enthea to pilot this model. Christi Myers, Flow CEO, notes that most of those seeking this treatment had first tried more conventional therapies, including antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. “But these treatments don’t get to the root of the problem in the way that we are seeing with ketamine-assisted therapy.”
“The results speak for themselves and demonstrate the unique effectiveness of ketamine-assisted therapy,” said Dan Rome, Chief Medical Officer of Enthea. "Psychedelic therapy's potential stems from its distinctive mechanism of action in the brain. It fosters increased neural plasticity and heightened connectivity between brain regions which leads to a profound shift in consciousness and perception, fostering introspection, personal insight, and, ultimately, psychological healing."
The company’s proposal to adopt psychedelic therapy wasn’t readily embraced by everyone. Trudy Bronner – CFO of Dr. Bronner’s and mother of Michael as well as CEO David Bronner winces when recalling the excesses of the 1960s. “I had friends who did the trippy stuff and it wasn’t always good,” she said. “On the other hand this country has a lot of mental health issues that need to be addressed.”
Her lingering skepticism was dispelled by Michael’s recent healing success with psychedelics.
Michael compared the experience to a massage for the brain that helped clear away much of his angst and despair. “I don’t want to oversell ketamine therapy as a miracle cure but it just stripped the rust away, gave me a reset and got me to a really good space,” he said.
“We really are at an inflection point where the whole paradigm about these drugs is shifting,” said Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, who is helping to set up the school’s new Center for the Science of Psychedelics.
When compared with current treatments, ketamine and ketamine-assisted therapy shows great improvements for:
Depression: Ketamine for the treatment of depression is extremely effective, with ketamine being the only drug known to the suicidal thoughts within 24-72 hours of receiving it.
Substance Use Disorder: There is strong evidence showing the effectiveness of ketamine in treating SUDs, results of these studies and associated systematic reviews show that ketamine is effective at reducing craving, promoting abstinence, and reducing withdrawal for drugs like cocaine, alcohol, and opioids in those dependent on them.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Ketamine shows significantly greater improvement in PTSD symptoms as compared to midazolam , with 67% of patients in the ketamine group being treatment responders (defined as a >30% reduction in PTSD symptoms) as compared to 20% in the midazolam group.
“The effectiveness of ketamine-assisted therapy has been demonstrated through multiple research studies and more than twenty years of accumulated clinical experience,” says Dan Rome, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Enthea. “Numerous studies show that, among individuals with chronic health conditions, those who also suffer from mental health disorders are two to three times more costly to the healthcare system than those without.”
When Liz heard the announcement about the new benefit and Michael’s own struggles with mental health, she reflected: “He was so brave and honest. I was instantly intrigued! I had never heard of Ketamine but I could relate to that dark place Mike spoke of.”
A survivor of abuse from childhood, Liz had been dealing with trauma “as if [it] were a conjoined twin”
After undergoing six sessions of Ketamine-Assisted Therapy, she was so moved the positive effects of her experience that she published a blog post touting her personal experience on the company site to share with her fellow employees:“
When the sessions were over, I felt tired but incredible. Like I was just given a massage to my soul.” Kost wrote, “The dissociative effects of Ketamine allowed me to disconnect myself from my trauma to feel the real me inside…and I was able to assess the abuse, my abusers, and myself from an entirely different perspective.
“We hope to inspire and be a model for other companies and organizations to also partner with Enthea and offer this potentially lifesaving benefit to their staff,” says David Bronner, CEO of Dr. Bronner’s, “As other psychedelic-assisted therapies become available, we look forward to adding benefits for those as well.”
“Many members of the All-One family at Dr. Bronner’s who have been struggling with mental health challenges have availed themselves of ketamine-assisted therapy, and have relayed their deep, heartfelt thanks for the incredible healing impact it has made,” reported David. “Enthea makes the experience seamless for our staff as well as on our side, and I can’t recommend them highly enough.”