Johns Hopkins Opens Psychedelic Research Center
by Thaddeus Camlin, Psy.D.
They said acid fries your brain and makes you jump off buildings. They said shrooms make your brain bleed and that’s why they cause hallucinations. They said pot makes people murder their families. I don’t know exactly who ‘they’ are, but boy were they wrong. The prestigious Johns Hopkins University just announced the opening of a nearly $20 million dollar research center to study psychedelic medicines. The announcement from Johns Hopkins is arguably the single biggest acknowledgment that Western Society has been embarrassingly wrong about psychedelics all along.
Research trials forthcoming from the new research center include the use of psychedelics to treat addiction, anorexia, Alzheimer’s related distress and cognitive impairment, depression, PTSD, and more. Psilocybin in particular is a compound of interest in the treatment of addiction because, unlike other addiction medications, psilocybin shows a ‘cross-drug efficacy,’ meaning that it is often helpful regardless of what a person is addicted to. Psilocybin often helping regardless of drug of choice suggests that it may be helping people work through the underlying issues that fuel addictive behaviors rather than just treating the symptoms (e.g. cravings, impulsive behaviors, etc).
Psychedelic experiences in general tend to be intense, and research to date suggests that the more intense a person’s psychedelic experience the more lasting the positive impact. In clinical settings with experienced practitioners, so-called ‘bad trips’ are rebranded as challenging experiences and often become pivotal tipping points in a person’s change process. Emotions make memories. Intense psychedelic therapy will most definitely be highly emotionally charged, so much so that they are referred to by some as “existential reckonings.”
An intense, existential reckoning can shake up an individual’s sense of self, re-calibrate values, and focus energy and motivation towards meaningful change. Alignment of actions and values is at the heart of sound emotional and psychological adjustment and well-being. Experts widely agree that aiming to help improve well-being should be the focus of addiction treatment, not getting people off drugs. If psychedelics continue to reliably induce ‘existential-reckonings’ for people in treatment, and there is no indication they won’t, then the new Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic Research is the first swell in a tidal wave of change coming towards addiction and mental health treatment in the 21st century.