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Johns Hopkins scientists to study benefits of tripping with center for psychedelic drug research

Magic mushrooms

BALTIMORE — Johns Hopkins University researchers are ready to study the benefits of tripping.

The university is launching a Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research within John Hopkins Medicine, believed to be the first of its kind in the U.S., and the largest research center of its kind in the world, according to school officials.

“Johns Hopkins is deeply committed to exploring innovative treatments for our patients,” said Paul B. Rothman, dean of the medical faculty at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in a statement. “Our scientists have shown that psychedelics have real potential as medicine, and this new center will help us explore that potential.”

The center is funded by a group of private donors, who collectively donated $17 million to start the center. Its focus will be on how psychedelic drugs affect the brain — looking specifically into brain function, behavior, learning, and memory — the brain’s biology and mood.

That also means scientists will research the medical benefits of psychedelics. Researchers will study psilocybin, the chemical naturally found in “magic mushrooms,” and see whether the compound helps with things like opioid addiction, Alzheimer’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, post-treatment Lyme disease, anorexia, and alcohol use in people with major depression.

Johns Hopkins has a had a psychedelic research group since 2000. This center will be a step forward for the group, allowing them to move forward with even more psychedelic-focused research.

“This very substantial level of funding should enable a quantum leap in psychedelic-focused research,” said James Potash, director of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, in a statement. “It will accelerate the process of sorting out what works and what doesn’t.”

Most psychedelic drugs are still illegal under federal law, as well as in every state, despite having shown medicinal benefits and a low risk for abuse. Some cities have moved to decriminalize the drugs, though decriminalization on a large scale has yet to occur.

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