Home Biomedical research Johns Hopkins receives first NIH grant for psychedelic clinical research in half a century

Johns Hopkins receives first NIH grant for psychedelic clinical research in half a century

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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded a research grant of approximately $ 4 million to Johns Hopkins to study the potential therapeutic effects of psilocybin on tobacco addiction.

According to the university, the Hopkins Grant is the first federal grant awarded in more than 50 years to directly explore the use of a classic psychedelic for therapeutic purposes.

“The historical significance of this grant is monumental,” lead researcher Matthew Johnson noted.

The renaissance of research: After decades in the shadows, academic interest in the use of psychedelics to treat a number of mental health disorders has accelerated; it is as if western science has finally listening, man. The compounds have been used in Indigenous rituals and ceremonies for centuries.

Multiple studies conducted in several laboratories, as well as a chorus of anecdotal experiments, show that these drugs have promising therapeutic potential for many mental health disorders. Psilocybin and ketamine have had dramatic effects in treating depression – ketamine in particular – while MDMA outperforms traditional treatments for PTSD.

As psychedelic-assisted therapy becomes more mainstream, with the opening of ketamine infusion clinics and the loosening of laws, the field will require continued support as it tackles the crucial – and costly – transition of studies and from laboratories to clinics and patients who need help.

Multiple studies conducted in several laboratories, as well as a chorus of anecdotal experiments, show that psychedelics have promising therapeutic potential for many mental health disorders.

This requires studies examining psychedelic-assisted therapy in clinical settings, which do not come cheap.

After all, a rebirth requires customers.

A lack of federal funding: Unfortunately, these clients did not include the NIH.

In an article published in the International Journal of Drug Policy, researchers at the Cleveland Clinic and Middlebury College found that much of the renaissance – defined here as starting in 2006 – was primarily funded by the private sector, the governments of the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Israel also contributing.

But when it comes to medical research, the NIH is in a different weight class.

“Since the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the largest public funder of biomedical research in the world, it is important to understand the extent to which the organization supports clinical trials of psychedelic therapies.” , wrote the researchers. .

The answer: zero subsidies since 2006.

“While government biomedical research funding agencies in other countries have begun funding clinical trials of psychedelic therapies during the psychedelic renaissance, the NIH has yet to directly fund a single clinical trial of psychedelic therapy,” wrote the authors.

The field will require continued support as it tackles the crucial – and costly – transition from studies and labs to clinics and patients who need help.

They cited (perhaps exaggerated) concerns about the risks of psychedelic drugs, federal laws banning the promotion of Schedule 1 drugs and what appears to be a priority for funding. different types of research on psychedelics – mainly on their potential for abuse and their basic pharmacology– as a reason why the NIH may not have funded a therapeutic clinical trial for nearly a decade.

Perhaps the NIH grant to Johns Hopkins marks a turning point in the powerful body’s support for the clinical use of psychedelics.

This is “great news for the field,” Stanford psychedelic researcher Boris Heifets told me by email.

What the NIH funds: Hopkins began studying the potential of psilocybin to help smokers quit smoking years ago. In 2014, the the university announced that a small group of smokers who had failed to quit multiple times were finally able to do so with the help of psilocybin treatment.

“Quitting smoking is not a simple biological reaction to psilocybin, like with other drugs that directly affect nicotine receptors,” said Johnson, who initiated the pilot study at the time. “When given after careful preparation and in a therapeutic setting, psilocybin can lead to deep reflection on one’s life and instill motivation to change.

And maybe it was this motivation that helped them quit smoking.

“The historical significance of this grant is monumental.

Matthew Johnson

The new three-year study will be carried out in collaboration with NYU and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Simultaneous studies at all three sites will hopefully provide researchers with a larger and more diverse pool of smokers, which will allow us to better understand the potential of the therapy.

In a randomized, double-blind trial, subjects will receive psilocybin therapy as well as cognitive behavioral therapy.

“We knew it was only a matter of time before the NIH funded this work because the data is so compelling and because this work has proven to be safe,” Johnson said.

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