In a podcast episode, the best-selling author and investor Tim Ferriss on the subject of psychedelics was tied up.
For one of his recent exhibitions, Ferriss interviewed author Michael Pollan about his latest book, How to Change Your Mind, which describes Pollan's experiences with various psychedelic medications, including magic mushrooms and LSD. After talking about Pollan's travels and getting into the science of how drugs affect the brain, Ferriss's interest was aroused.
On Friday, with financial support from Ferriss, the researchers will open the doors of the world's first research center dedicated exclusively to psychedelics.
London's Imperial Center for Psychedelic Research hosts scientists exploring the potential to turn drugs such as ecstasy, magic mushrooms and LSD into approved medical treatments. Scientists focus on treating severe brain diseases that are still difficult to treat, such as depression and anorexia of the eating disorder.
"Current treatments are not enough, they do not make the difference we need," said Robin Carhart-Harris, head of the new center and a neuroscience and pharmacology researcher at London's Imperial College, to Business Insider.
Other donors include the Canadian businessman and founder of audiobooks.com Sanjay Singhal, banker philanthropist and Google advisor Shamil Chandaria, British executive Anton Bilton and venture capitalist Bohdana Tamas.
While psychedelics such as ayahuasca have played a medicinal and spiritual role in indigenous cultures around the world for centuries, the new center will be the first formal hub of its kind.
"These compounds can help treat persistent states that affect millions of people, and they can help us better understand the nature of consciousness itself," Ferris said in a statement.
Flood of New Interest in Psychedelics as a Medicine
The opening of the center begins The heels of a riot of renewed interest in the potential of psychedelics to treat thorny brain disorders such as depression.
Until last month, essentially only one type of state-approved antidepressant had been available for decades. This medication is a pill called SSRI. It is often sold under brand names like Lexapro and Prozac. But in March, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first new non-SSRI anti-depression drug: a nasal spray inspired by the semi-psychedelic drug ketamine.
"Things are really getting on," said Carhart-Harris.
With nearly 4 million US dollars from five founding donors, the researchers of the center also want to open a clinic. Ideally, the clinic would serve as a prototype for future psychedelic medical facilities. Carhart-Harris said he hopes the room can also serve as a clinic for the treatment of disease and also help to keep healthy people healthy.
Scientists will build on groundbreaking work on drugs such as magic mushrooms and LSD.
Carhart-Harris believes the new center will help lay the groundwork for pioneering efforts to explore the medical potential of psychedelics.
Under his leadership, scientists at Imperial College first investigated whether psilocybin, the main psychoactive constituent of magic mushrooms, had beneficial effects on patients with major depression. They have also been world leaders in exploring the effects of LSD on the human brain with modern brain imaging technology.
Based on this work, researchers in New York and Baltimore have started their own clinical trials to further investigate the therapeutic potential of the drugs. You have now studied psilocybin in cancer patients with severe mortal anxiety; Ecstasy in veterans with PTSD; and ayahuasca in people with depression.
Read More: Regulators Have Just Approved a New Depression Drug with the Potential to Become a Game Modifier
Yet, psychedelic researchers have seen many obstacles along the way, Carhart-Harris said.
Part of the motivation for the new center came from frustration with repeated attempts to raise money from mainstream medical groups such as the National Institutes of Health and the UK National Health Service.
"We have experienced the perfect stigma tower," said Carhart-Harris. "Psychedelics are scary for some people and then a mental illness that can be a touchy subject, and even psychotherapy and psychology are strongly stigmatized."
Earlier this year, the group of Carhart-Harris began a new study in people with depression, in which psilocybin is compared with a traditional antidepressant. Next year, they want to assess whether the same drug could also have potential to treat anorexia. Both diseases seem to be characterized by a kind of rigidity, he said. Whether it is self-doubt or food, cyclical and thoughtful thoughts capture the brain in a whirlwind of negativity.
"Psychedelics seem to relax these prejudices of thought and behavior so that you get a sense of openness," said Carhart-Harris.
"This is a window of opportunity for therapies that may be on the right track if you can cultivate healthy changes."