The 'mind-blowing' R&D renaissance in psychedelic meds finds a home at Johns Hopkins
The “mind-blowing” field of psychedelic research is getting its first major US home, one that could help legitimize a field that has slowly crept out of the shadows over the last two decades.
Johns Hopkins Medicine announced Wednesday they are opening what they believe to be the first center for psychedelic research in the country and the largest in the world.
The Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins Medicine will include a team of 11 faculty scientists and post-docs investigating the potential use of LSD and psilocybin (the chemical found in magic mushrooms) — among other psychedelics — to impact human creativity and well-being and to treat a host of disorders, including opioid addiction, Alzheimer’s disease and PTSD.
Once studied extensively by the federal government, psychedelics virtually disappeared from research laboratories after most were scheduled as Class I drugs by the Nixon Administration in 1970. But since 2000, when Johns Hopkins obtained approval to administer psychedelics to human subjects who had never taken one before, scientists at a handful of institutions have steadily brought the category of drugs into the scientific foreground.
These researchers have described some of their results as “mind-blowing” in their ability to help patients, as health writer Michael Pollan reported in the New Yorker in 2015. Pollan has been one of the most prominent promoters of psychedelics, writing in popular publications and his new book How to Change Your Mind about the potential for this class of drugs to treat anxiety and depression with heretofore unheard-of success.
In March, the FDA approved a psychedelic drug for the first time: Esketamine for treating depression. MDMA (commonly called ecstasy) received breakthrough therapy status in 2017 and Phase III trials to use it as PTSD treatment have shown promise. Trials completed at NYU and Hopkins – which prompted the “mind-blowing” description – highlighted the potential for the drugs to decrease “existential distress” in cancer patients.
Nevertheless, significant legal hurdles exist to obtaining government funds for psychedelic research and the center will be entirely privately funded. The list of donors, though, reflects the reputation and cache the drugs have amassed among a younger generation of influencers and Silicon Valley types, who have driven some of the development to date. They include author, tech investor, and podcast host Tim Ferriss, WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg and TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie.