Johns Hopkins new Center for Psychedelic Research builds on mounting evidence of psychedelics as treatment

Earlier this month, Johns Hopkins University opened its Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research to measure and determine the benefits psychedelics can have as medical treatments.

Investors like Tim Ferriss donated $17M to fund the center’s research which will aim to address a swathe of mental illness which have proven resistant to current treatment methods.

“Johns Hopkins is deeply committed to exploring innovative treatments for our patients. Our scientists have shown that psychedelics have real potential as medicine, and this new center will help us explore that potential.”
–Paul B. Rothman, dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Studies determining the efficacy of psilocybin in treating post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, anorexia nervosa and alcohol use in people with major depression are slated for the near term, according to the university.

The center’s establishment coincides with the university’s shifting focus towards mental health and perhaps the global mental health crisis at large.

Between 2000 and 2009, Johns Hopkins published seven news release on mental illness-related papers, while between 2010 to 2019 the number of releases featuring mental illness had increased to 12.

One in five Canadians will experience mental illness or an addiction problem each year, according to the Center for Mental Illness and Addiction (CAMH), and by the time Canadians reach 40 years of age, one in two will have had, or have, a mental illness.

Additional statistics:

  • Mental illness is a leading cause of disability in Canada.
  • People with mental illness and addictions are more likely to die prematurely than the general population. Mental illness can cut 10 to 20 years from a person’s life expectancy.
  • The disease burden of mental illness and addiction in Ontario is 1.5 times higher than all cancers put together and more than 7 times that of all infectious diseases. This includes years lived with less than full function and years lost to early death.
  • Tobacco, the most widely used addictive substance, is the leading cause of premature mortality in Canada. Smoking is responsible for nearly 17% of all deaths.
  • Among Ontarians aged 25 to 34, 1 of every 8 deaths is related to opioid use.

Some experts believe psychedelics can help mitigate the effects of both the mental health crisis and the opioid epidemic.

In a paper 2019 published by Albert Garcia-Romeu et al with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins University, psychedelics showed promise as a reductive factor in heavy alcohol users.

To quote from the paper: “Almost all respondents reported that they had greatly reduced or quit drinking alcohol since their reference psychedelic experience as evidenced by a current self-reported mean of 4.3 drinks per week (SD = 10.2), down from a mean of 25.5 (SD = 21.5) drinks per week before the reference psychedelic experience.”

Meanwhile, Compass Pathways, a Peter Thiel-backed start-up geared towards research into psychedelic treatments, is conducting trials for treatment-resistant depression across Europe and North America.

Psychiatrists in Vancouver will also soon begin phase III clinical trials of MDMA for patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder in conjunction with the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use.

Suicide remains the second leading cause of death in Canadian children and young adults between the ages of 10 and 29 years.



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