One of the United States’ most respected medical institutions has announced that it will be sinking its teeth into the field of psychedelics research. Johns Hopkins University will form the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, funded by $17 million in donations from private sources. It may well be the largest research facility in the world to focus on the study of psychedelics.

“Our scientists have shown that psychedelics have real potential as medicine, and this new center will help us explore that potential,” said Paul B. Rothman, who is the dean of the medical faculty at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine.

The school has maintained a group to research psychedelics since 2000, but this latest move will allow it to conduct more substantial investigations.

Primary among its study priorities will be the effects of psilocybin on the brain and body — specifically, to see whether the substance could be of help in treating health conditions like opioid addiction, Alzheimer’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, post-treatment Lyme disease, and anorexia. The center will also explore whether there is a link to treating depression-concurrent alcoholism with medicinal psilocybin.

2019 has been a banner year for expanding access to psychedelics. In May, Denver voters approved Initiative I-301, which decriminalized the possession of mushrooms and bans financial penalties for their use and possession. Then in June, Oakland, California decriminalized entheogenic plants, which include the iboga plant and magic mushrooms. Though the plan doesn’t allow for the sale of such substances, the City Council hoped that it could lead to easier use of the drugs for therapeutic purposes.

Those legal measures come at an opportune time, as interest in psychedelics as medicine is growing far beyond the walls of the country’s medical universities. The People of Color Psychedelic Society is one such group of individuals interested in exploring and preserving psychedelic cultural history. The organization launched a campaign in 2018 to digitize the archives of María Sabina, a Mexican psychedelics healer.

If your interest is piqued by the powers of ‘shrooms and other mind-altering drugs, there are several conferences dedicated to programming on the subject. The grandmother of these events is the International Psychedelic Science Conference. 2018 saw the birth of the Los Angeles Psychedelic Science Symposium, and this year San Francisco hosted the Queering Psychedelics conference, which specifically looked at the beneficial effects that psychedelics can have for the LGBTQ community.

The Center For Psychedelic And Consciousness Research is the continuation of Johns Hopkins’ ongoing interest in psychedelic research. The school was the first in the country to get approval from the US government to conduct psychedelic testing on individuals who had not previously used the drugs. Such studies have been lauded for helping to push the federal government towards a more humane approach to psychedelic access.

“The group’s findings on both the promise and the risks of psilocybin helped create a path forward for its potential medical approval and reclassification from a Schedule I drug, the most restrictive federal government category, to a more appropriate level,” the university announced in a press release.

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