On Wednesday, Johns Hopkins Medicine, headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland, launched the first center for psychedelic research in the United States. The Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research will study drugs like LSD and psilocybin and their potential therapeutic uses for improving mental health. The launch of the Center comes amid renewed medical and scientific interest in mind-altering substances healing potential.
Today, more than ever, psychedelics are gaining legitimacy among medical and health experts. But research is lagging behind shifting cultural attitudes toward psychedelic drugs and experiences. Thanks to the $17 million in funding from private donors and The Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation, however, Johns Hopkins is poised to produce breakthrough research and treatments based on psychedelics.
Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research Launches in Maryland
Psychedelic medicine may still be a fringe concept for many healthcare practitioners. But over the past couple of decades, more scientist have begun to investigate the effects of psychedelics on psychiatric problems. Their work has produced a slew of new and exciting studies that suggest psychedelic drugs have vast clinical potential.
Recent studies have found that the use of psychedelics can help treat anxiety and depression. Others concluded that psychedelics can help ween people off of addictions to nicotine, alcohol and opioids. Research even suggests that positive psychedelic experiences, like having a good trip, can greatly improve psychological well-being. So from treating depression, anxiety, to PTSD, substance abuse and other mental health problems, psychedelic medicine could revolutionize our understanding of human psychology.
And that’s exactly what the backers of Johns Hopkins Medicine‘s new $17 million Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research hope to accomplish. “This is an exciting initiative that brings new focus to efforts to learn about mind, brain and psychiatric disorders by studying the effects of psychedelic drugs,” chair of psychiatry at Yale University Dr. John Krystal told the New York Times via email.
Research Centers Help Legitimize Psychedelic Medicine
Social and cultural towards psychedelic drugs are rapidly shifting in the United States. Just this year, both Denver, Colorado and Oakland, California have decriminalized psychedelics like psilocybin mushrooms, DMT and mescaline. Of course, humans have used psychedelics in healing practices and spiritual ceremonies for millennia, but in the West, at least, modern medicine is only now beginning to catch up.
And thanks to new research and patient advocacy, more medical professionals are beginning to take psychedelics seriously. As a result, psychedelic medicine is gaining recognition as therapeutic, medicinal substances.
Anorexia and Alzheimer’s First Up for Psychedelic Research
But plenty of reservations and concerns remain, and it will be up to future studies to root them out and challenge them. With its significant financial support, the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research can build an institution to rapidly advance the science of psychedelics in new, previously unheard of ways.
The Center’s $17 million in funding also means it can get started studying applications of psychedelic medicine right away. Roland Griffiths, a Johns Hopkins neuroscientists who will direct the new Center, said the $17 million will support six full-time faculty, five postdoctoral scientists and the high costs of running clinical trials.
According to Griffiths, the Center plans to conduct its first trials on patients with anorexia nervosa and early Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers want to investigate if psilocybin can help patients overcome eating disorders and treat the psychological distress and cognitive impairment of Alzheimer’s. But that’s only the beginning. The Center also plans to begin studying how psychedelics can treat opioid-use disorder. Future clinical trials will look at using psilocybin to treat chronic depression, PTSD and more.