Despite the numerous health benefits of psychedelic compounds, research into this branch of natural alternative medicine has been relatively low compared to other branches of medicine. While some other types of alternative therapies encompass a much larger body of scientific evidence, there is a dearth of knowledge materials for psychedelic research.
To a large extent, this limits people’s knowledge of the psychedelics which gives rise to misconceptions. Fortunately, this is poised to change as various reputable research organizations around the world are now at the forefront of increasing awareness and educating the public on the many benefits of psychedelic use for mental health treatment.
What Are Psychedelics?
Also known as hallucinogens, psychedelics are a group of psychoactive substances that cause changes in mood and cognitive process as well as altered states of consciousness. Their use dates back to the 16th century when people would utilize them for their health benefits. Substances under this category include:
- Psilocybin (magic mushrooms)
- Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)
- Diemethyltryptamine (DMT)
Growth in Psychedelic Research: A Step in the Right Direction
After several decades of halted progress in psychedelic research, scientific studies into its effectiveness, tolerability, safety, and other important aspects are now gaining ground. However, the use, possession, and cultivation of the substances are still heavily regulated and controlled by governments around the world.
That being said, there are higher levels of awareness among the general public, and many countries are now reviewing their drug laws to accommodate the use of some of them for medical purposes. With this in place, researchers now have better resources and access to previously restricted psychedelics for research purposes, this will likely lead to discoveries of more benefits in the near future.
Research Organizations Leading Psychedelic Studies
The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is a non-profit research organization that is committed to the development of medical, cultural, and legal contexts for people to benefit from the uses of psychedelics. MAPS has covered and/or published a wide range of psychedelic research.
Their works include ayahuasca-assisted therapy, ibogaine-assisted treatment, LSD-assisted psychotherapy, peyote neuropsychological study, and psilocybin studies. This organization has also helped raise funding for many related studies. Their focus is to address the issues surrounding the accessibility of psychedelic drugs as well as whether or not doctors should be allowed to use them to treat mental disorders.
In fact, some forward-thinking researchers are already looking at the prospects of understanding the subconscious mind better through the use of these substances.
Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelics and Consciousness
In 2000, the John Hopkins research group became the first in the United States to obtain regulatory approval to reinstate psychedelic research with healthy volunteers. Before this, the last psychedelic study dated back to the 1970s when the research was abruptly ended as a result of negative media coverage which misrepresented the impacts of the substances.
Today, two decades later, John Hopkins has published several psychedelic studies in over 60 peer-reviewed works. Their work has demonstrated significant health benefits for people who suffer from various medical disorders and the effectiveness of these drugs in treating addiction, treatment-resistant depression, and existential distress resulting from chronic diseases.
Their discoveries so far have given experts in the field better insight into the enduring positive effects of psilocybin and many other psychedelics. They hope to one day “create precision medicine treatments tailored to the specific needs of individual patients.”
On April 26, 2016, the Imperial College in London launched its center for psychedelic research. The center was funded by over £3 million from five donors. It will focus on expanding the college’s achievements in psychedelic studies. While many other research groups have conducted different psychedelic studies, the Imperial center is the first to have such a robust program within a major academic institution in Europe. The college’s psychedelic research team was the first to investigate the effects of LSD on the brain using modern neuroimaging. It is also the first to conduct research into the effects of psilocybin for treating depression.
The Hakomi Institute was founded in 1981 by renowned therapist, Ron Kurtz. It is a reputable organization that educates and trains people on Hakomi Experiential Psychotherapy. Hakomi is a Native American word used to describe the process of body-inclusive psychotherapy.
Over the past three decades, the institute has recorded groundbreaking successes in this area. It offers professionals and graduate students a wide range of training covering effective applications of Hakomi therapy. Some of the entities making use of the institute’s continuing education are:
- Commonwealth Educational Resources
- National Association of Social Workers
- National Board for Certified Counselors
Psychedelic Research in Israel
Psychedelic research is also gaining ground in Israel. In 2014, dozens of Israelis partook in a clinical trial that included the use of MDMA. Most of the subjects reported experiencing beneficial effects in overcoming post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following the therapy. This is one of the factors that motivated Israel’s Ministry of Health to allow for the “compassionate use” of psychedelics for medical purposes on February 3, 2019.
While many psychedelics, including MDMA, are still classified as dangerous and illegal drugs in Israel, this approval enables people to benefit from the therapeutic effects of psychedelics to improve their health. “Compassionate use” means using drugs that are still in development to treat patients outside clinical trials in the absence of alternative options.