Johns Hopkins Psychedelic Research Center notable achievements
Our human family has witnessed wondrous things. We’ve sent beings into space, landed astronauts on the Moon, and by 2033 NASA plans to build on Mars. Yet we’ve stayed in the dark when it comes to mapping out and discovering what lies within the human mind. The renowned Johns Hopkins University of Medicine has been changing all of that.
Psychonautics is the study of the inner voyage, taken from the Ancient Greek terms for psyche, or the soul, spirit and mind, as well as nautes, or sailor and navigator. Thanks to the groundbreaking work of intrepid scientists at Johns Hopkins, humanity now stands on the brink of internal discovery. Each day, researchers are learning more about the wonders of the human mind, consciousness and our capacity for healing.
Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to heal after injury or trauma. Healing is made more likely by the application of external stimuli. For years, such stimuli took the form of cognitive therapy, meditation or pharmaceuticals. Hopkins scientists have discovered that psilocybin, the naturally occurring component found in psychedelic mushrooms such as Psilocybe cubensis mushroom spores, has vast benefits for treating trauma, anxiety, clinical depression and heightening brain functions.
Hopkins began researching the effects and benefits of psychedelics back in the 1950s. But in the 1970s they had to end these studies due to public perceptions amid fears of risk and addiction, and the restrictive governmental regulations that ensued. But persistence paid off.
In 2000, Hopkins researchers were the first in the U.S. to receive regulatory approval to “reinitiate research with psychedelics in healthy, psychedelic-naive volunteers.” Hopkins scientists were at last allowed to resume their clinical trials into psychedelics and its medicinal applications.
“Although psilocybin has been used for centuries for religious purposes, little is known scientifically about its acute and persisting effects,” Hopkins researchers wrote. In 2006, their clinical trials reached a new psychonautic milestone that would affect human research globally. Through a double-blind study, Hopkins clinical scientists discovered that psilocybin brought about positive, “mystical-type experiences” in their subjects, even with a single dose.
In 2008, Hopkins published ‘Human hallucinogen research: Guidelines for safety,’ emphasizing subject safety as the cornerstone of psychedelics research. In 2014, they paired psilocybin with behavioral therapy to help long-time smokers quit cigarettes. By 2016, their scientists discovered that psilocybin helped ease the crippling anxiety of people facing life-threatening cancer.
Hopkins researchers petitioned the U.S. federal government in 2018 to reclassify “psilocybin from a schedule I drug—one with no known medical potential—to a schedule IV drug such as prescription sleep aids,” albeit with tighter regulatory controls. In 2019, Hopkins scientists collected evidence showing that psychedelics, including psilocybin, LSD and DMT, were proving effective in combating alcohol abuse. Their studies point to the value of psychedelics-assisted clinical therapy for combating a wide range of chronic conditions.
As a result of their groundbreaking work, in 2019 a group of private benefactors donated $17 million to Johns Hopkins to launch their Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research. “In the absence of federal funding for such research,” wrote Hopkins, this new Psychedelic Center would rely on private donors “to advance the emerging field of psychedelics for therapies and wellness.” This research center is the first of its kind in the U.S., and the single-largest research center for the study of psychedelics for therapeutic research on planet Earth.
Since 2000, Hopkins has conducted at least 91 studies on psychedelics, publishing their findings on our inner dimensions in over 60 scientific journals. Moving from the mystical to the therapeutic, in 2010 Hopkins researchers published ‘Hallucinogens as Medicine,’ expounding on the benefits of therapeutic micro-dosing. In 2016, they published ‘Classic Hallucinogens in the Treatment of Addictions.’ By 2020, their research expanded to treating PTSD among U.S. Veterans, publishing ‘Psychedelic Treatment for Trauma-Related Psychological Impairment among U.S. Special Operations Forces Veterans.’
Johns Hopkins’ dedication to clinical research has provided scientific case studies and global guidance on the therapeutic effects of psilocybin and other psychedelics. This pioneering exploration is expanding treatment options for a wide range of challenging conditions—from treating clinical depression to drug, alcohol and smoking dependency, to assuaging critical anxiety caused by life-threatening disease or trauma. Hopkins itself acknowledges becoming “the leading psychedelic research institution in the U.S.,” and a leader of such research worldwide.
The psychonauts at the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research recently mapped key areas of the human brain and consciousness. In June of 2020 they published yet another landmark study, this time on the Claustrum. The claustrum, taken from a Latin word for ‘hidden or shut away,’ is believed by scientists to be where the human ego resides. Referred to as the “seat of consciousness,” it’s located in the subcortical nucleus of the cerebral cortex, and responsible for perception, memory and attention, including awareness and sense of self.
Publishing their findings as ‘Psychedelic Drug Psilocybin Tamps Down Brain’s Ego Center,’ these Hopkins scientists explain the claustrum as a “thin sheet of neurons” deep within the cerebral cortex. Yet this small set of neurons “reaches out to every other region of the brain.”
The Hopkins Psychedelic Center administered psilocybin to both mice and humans, taking MRIs of the resonance activity within the brain. By comparing the brain imaging of text subjects, the researchers noted lower activity in the claustrum. They believe this coincides with what most test subjects report as the typical effects of psychedelic drugs, noted by Hopkins researchers as “feelings of being connected to everything and reduced senses of self or ego.”
Worldwide, clinical studies on the therapeutic effects of psychedelic hallucinogens continue. MAPS, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, is tracking the therapeutic progress of psychedelics, and highlights clinical trials in need of test subjects. The National Institutes of Health is now studying MDMA and psilocybin in a new branch of study, Novel Treatments, as part of the American Psychiatric Association Council of Research.
With such progress in therapeutic psychedelics, humanity has entered a new era of discovery into the psychonautics of the mind and consciousness itself. Each clinical study mapping our internal navigation system and capacity for neuroplasticity marks a giant leap for humankind. At this rate, soon we’ll have a better understanding of what Native medicine healers and Shamans, from the Mayans to the Zapotec, the Navajo to ancient Egyptians, were doing for millennia.