Public funding for new mental health discoveries that can change the lives of millions of Americans for good? In a word: Absolutely.
Over the past three years, clinical trials of psilocybin-assisted therapy and MDMA psychedelics in particular have demonstrated their value in treating a variety of even difficult-to-treat mental conditions such as the so-called treatment-resistant depression. This new therapy is believed to offer real hope to the desperate.
The excitement of clinical trials is tempered by the fact that there are still many answers needed about how various psychedelics work inside the human brain. There is so much more work to do. But that is precisely why more public funding is needed.
Certainly, hundreds of millions of dollars of philanthropic investments are actively making a difference. An example: Stephen Jurvetson, co-founder of Future Ventures and member of the board of directors of SpaceX, is would have donating about half of his net worth to fund psychedelic science.
The collaboration of funders of psychedelic science (PSFC), a non-profit organization founded in 2017 and created to support scientists and organizations working on psychedelic clinical trials, includes some of the leading funders of psychedelic medicine who support organizations at the forefront of research psychedelic. PSFC has funded several organizations at the forefront of the psychedelic field and in 2020 successfully completed a $30 million capital campaign in partnership with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) to support the completion of trials Phase 3 clinics of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. .
PSFC’s current areas of focus include supporting broad and equitable access to high-quality MDMA-assisted psychotherapy after FDA approval, and supporting the implementation of Oregon’s Measure 109.
It seems that almost every week another Entrepreneur or philanthropist escalates with a psychedelic fundraising target – SpaceX founder Elon Musk, Groupon co-founder Andrew Mason, and even an unnamed Bitcoin millionaire. But it’s not enough. Deeper pockets are needed for the more historic, life-changing results that psychedelic research has just begun to produce.
One of the main sources of federal funding for medical science comes from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIH-funded research contributed to a 60% reduction in mortality rates from coronary heart disease and stroke, a 40% drop in infant mortality over the past 20 years, and a 30% decrease in chronic disabilities in the elderly .
Psychedelic research is at a point where it is ripe for more government funding, as a growing number of US cities and states are taking legislative action to decriminalize or legalize psychedelic use and/or research; and a new one Harris Poll reporting that nearly two-thirds of Americans with anxiety/depression/PTSD believe that psychedelic medicine should be made available to patients with treatment-resistant anxiety, depression, or PTSD.
And then: The DEA stepped up its authorized production quotas for Psychedelics in November citing “a significant increase in the use of Schedule I hallucinogenic controlled substances for research and clinical trials.”
There has been a silver lining for public funding of psychedelics. In October, Johns Hopkins Medicine received an NIH grant to explore the potential impacts of psilocybin on tobacco addiction. This is the first NIH grant in more than half a century to directly study the therapeutic effects of a classic psychedelic.
This announcement comes with a reference to the problem of stigma that began when studies of LSD and other psychedelics were raging over 50 years ago, in the 1960s and 1970s. LSD fell victim of a politicized youth culture at the time that turned the potential therapeutic good of LSD into just a party drug problem. It was made illegal by the DEA as a Schedule 1 drug. Recovering from over 50 years of public disparity has been somewhat achieved, but it’s still an ongoing problem not just with LSD but with all psychedelics.
It’s clear that today the NIH needs to get into the psychedelics game in an even bigger way than its recent grant to Johns Hopkins. the limited support from philanthropic sources has funded the research so far, but these are small trials with relatively small patient samples due to the cost of conducting larger studies.
On the other hand, The NIH is the largest public funder of biomedical research around the world. Every state and nearly every congressional district has earned a share of this investment. NIH investments in research focused on a particular area have been found to stimulate increased private investment in the same area. A $1.00 increase in public basic research stimulates an additional $8.38 investment in R&D from industry after 8 years. A $1.00 increase in public clinical research stimulates an additional $2.35 investment in R&D from industry after 3 years.