Center for Psychedelic Research Opens at Johns Hopkins Medicine


Johns Hopkins has opened The Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research in the nation’s first-ever research center to study the use of psychedelic substances as medicine for a range of mental health ailments, including addiction, depression, and PTSD. 

With $17 million in commitments from wealthy private donors and a foundation, “psychedelic medicine” will be examined for its usefulness in learning about mind, brain, and psychiatric disorders. Roland Griffiths Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins, who will direct the new center, said the new funds will cover six full-time faculty, five postdoctoral scientists and the costs of running trials. Among the first of those trials is a test of psilocybin, the active agent in the so-called “magic mushroom,” for anorexia nervosa and for psychological distress and cognitive impairment in early Alzheimer’s disease.

Psilocybin trials by Matthew Johnson, an addiction specialist at Johns Hopkins and a member of the new psychedelic center, suggest that it is promising in the treatment of addiction to multiple recreationally-used drugs, including nicotine.  “The most compelling thing that makes psilocybin different from other addiction drugs is that it’s showing this cross-drug efficacy,” Dr. Johnson said. “It appears to have a similar effect, regardless of what drug the person is addicted to.”  In carefully controlled settings, that can include cognitive behavioral therapy, Dr. Johnson  states that “there may be changes in brain network patterns that persist beyond the acute effect, almost like the acute effects may be inducing plasticity and flexibility.”

According to literature about similar trials, MDMA, or ecstasy, could help people with post-traumatic stress disorder and cannabis and LSD have been tried for addiction and other problems, with mixed results.

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