While psychedelic substances have been illegal and prohibited from study in most countries up until the past few years, many leading experts have picked up on research that started in the 1950s and 60s. Fully legal, well-funded research programs during that time found that carefully monitored and controlled use of psilocybin may be beneficial for many psychiatric disorders, personal and spiritual development, and creative enhancement. However, after psilocybin was banned in 1970, clinical research to evaluate its medical safety and efficacy of psychedelics was effectively halted until the late 90s and early 2000s.
Today, there are dozens of studies taking place to evaluate the medical safety and efficacy of psychedelics, including psilocybin. These promising findings have been revisited and spurred a resurgence of new, more rigorous research on the potential benefits of psychedelics as a treatment for cluster headache, anxiety, addiction to alcohol and other drugs, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, as well as neuroimaging experiments furthering the understanding of its effects on the brain.
Currently, we’re in the midst of a psychedelic renaissance. New York University, the University of New Mexico, the University of Zurich, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Alabama and the University of California-Los Angeles have all partnered with the psilocybin-focused Heffter Research Institute, studying the compound for smoking cessation, alcoholism, terminal-cancer anxiety and cocaine dependence; the biotech-CEO-founded Usona Institute funds research of “consciousness-expanding medicines” for depression and anxiety at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Since 2000, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a nonprofit based in Santa Cruz, California, has been funding clinical trials of MDMA for subjects with PTSD, mostly veterans, but also police, firefighters and civilians. In November, the FDA approved large-scale Phase III clinical trials – the last phase before potential medicalization – of MDMA for PTSD treatment. MAPS, which has committed $25 million to achieving that medicalization by 2021, also supports or runs research with ayahuasca (a concoction of Amazonian plants), LSD, medical marijuana and ibogaine, the pharmaceutical extract of the psychoactive African shrub iboga. The organization is additionally funding a study of MDMA for treating social anxiety in autistic adults, currently underway at UCLA Medical Center. Another study, using MDMA to treat anxiety in patients with life-threatening illnesses, has concluded.