Nearly 15 years after experts at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine helped to reinvigorate research on the potential therapeutic effects of psychedelic substances, experts have launched the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, the first of its kind in the United States and the largest in the world.1 The center is fully funded by private donors, including The Steven and Alexandra Cohen Foundation and 4 philanthropists, who altogether contributed $17 million to cover operational expenses for the first 5 years.1

Initial research on psychedelics that began in the 1950s and 1960s “abruptly ended in the early 1970s in response to unfavorable media coverage, resulting in misperceptions of risk and highly restrictive regulations,” according to the new Center’s website.2 Additionally, psilocybin — the key compound found in “magic mushrooms” and a main area of focus in psychedelics studies — was classified as a schedule I drug during the Nixon administration. However, researchers have subsequently demonstrated relatively low abuse potential and toxicity associated with the agent.1

After obtaining regulatory approval in 2000 to reinitiate psychedelics studies, Johns Hopkins researchers published a landmark double-blind study in Psychopharmacology in 2006 showing positive, sustained effects of psilocybin on the attitudes and behavior of healthy volunteers.1,3 The study also demonstrated the safety of the substance when administered under well-controlled conditions.3 This “sparked a renewal of psychedelic research worldwide,” according to a press release announcing the new center.In the aftermath, a sizable body of research has demonstrated therapeutic benefits of psilocybin and other psychedelic substances, including ketamine, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA), ayahuasca, and ibogaine, some of which have long been used by indigenous cultures in medicine and spiritual practices.4,5

Overall, results thus far support the efficacy of psychedelics in a wide range of conditions and populations, typically in combination with psychotherapy. For example, an open-label trial published in 2018 in Psychopharmacology examined the effects of psilocybin on treatment-resistant depression in 20 patients (6 female). Patients received 2 doses (10 and 25 mg) of the drug 7 days apart, along with psychological support at each session.6

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