Johns Hopkins University recently announced the opening of the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, a facility within John Hopkins Medicine that will be dedicated to studying psychedelics and their potential to be used medicinally.
This research center is the first of its kind in the United States, and the largest of its kind in the entire world. The unprecedented research effort is being made possible thanks to $17 million in donations from private investors. Although, it is important to note that half of those donations were gathered by one person, the best-selling author, and podcaster Tim Ferriss, who also donated $2 million of his own money, in addition to organizing half of the outside investments.
Ferriss was also one of the key investors behind a similar center at Imperial College London, which was said to be the first of its kind in the world when it opened.
Researchers at the new Johns Hopkins facility will be studying psychedelic substances and their effect on the human brain. More specifically, they will be seeking possible treatments for mental health issues like addiction, depression, PTSD, Alzheimer’s disease, eating disorders and a variety of other conditions.
The new center will be directed by Roland Griffiths, a neuroscientist who has pioneered the psychedelic program at Johns Hopkins over the past decade. In fact, the research that Griffiths and his colleagues have done at Hopkins over the years is likely the reason that the university was chosen for this facility.
In 2012, John Hopkins made news with a study showing that the psychedelic experience can help terminally ill patients come to terms with their own mortality. Numerous other studies conducted at the university since have shown the tremendous power that psychedelics have to bring people out of negative thought patterns that they have been stuck in for many years. For example, in a 2014 study that was published in The Journal of Psychopharmacology, researchers at Hopkins found that psilocybin mushrooms could help long-time smokers kick their habit.
The premise behind much of this research was that these substances breakthrough egoic social barriers that prevent us from actually dealing with our emotions head-on. This is why psychedelic experiences can often be challenging, because they can really force a person to analyze parts of their lives that they have been trying to ignore or avoid. Ultimately, this can push people towards finding solutions for problems in their lives that they may have never considered otherwise.
Ferriss met Dr. Griffiths in 2015, when the research happening at Hopkins was really starting to make international news. The author and podcaster became so interested in the research that he began thinking of investment opportunities at the University. After a successful crowdfunding campaign for a small depression study, Ferriss decided to dive in headfirst.
“Essentially it was a seed investment. I ran a beta test, and they really delivered,” Ferriss said.
Griffiths believes that the opening of this new center is a turning point for psychedelic research.
“It’s been hand-to-mouth in this field, and now we have the core funding and infrastructure to really advance psychedelic science in a way that hasn’t been done before,” Griffiths told the New York Times.
With very few exceptions, research into psychedelic drugs was heavily restricted since the beginning of the US government’s “War on Drugs” in the 1960s and 70s, but the few studies that have taken place in the decades since have been so promising that the scientific community has demanded a change to the current legal attitude towards psychedelic substances.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have also had a role in the push for reclassification of psilocybin from a schedule I to a schedule IV, which means it would be legally considered medicine.
John Vibes is an author and journalist who takes a special interest in the counter culture, and focuses solutions-oriented approaches to social problems. He is also a host of The Free Your Mind Conference and The Free Thought Project Podcast.