In-Depth Timeline of Psilocybin Advances


March, 2022

The time has arrived for psychedelic research after a lengthy period of stagnation. Albert Hoffman had just recently discovered the psychedelic qualities of LSD in 1943, and it would be another ten years before R. Gordon Wasson ventured out to collect psilocybin strains in the Mexican mountains. 

The 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s were the most prolific decades for psychedelic research in the twentieth century. Thousands of LSD experiments were conducted as researchers investigated its potential as a psychotherapy tool and its effects on everything from metabolism to time perception to its effectiveness as an addiction treatment.

As the 1960s came to a conclusion, the US government intensified its drug war, and in 1970, President Richard Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act, making psilocybin, mescaline, LSD, and DMT illegal. The act essentially put a stop to all government-sponsored psychedelic research, and what had been a torrent had now become a trickle, as it would remain for the next three decades.

While large-scale controlled studies were not a possibility, not all psychotherapists ceased working with psychedelics, and prominent exceptions to the prohibition included Rick Strassman’s DMT study. The new century brought with it a fresh lease on life for psychedelic research, thanks to the tireless efforts of supporters and scientists. Psilocybin research resumed in earnest in the early 2000s, with ever more spectacular studies to follow, and they were soon joined by pioneering LSD investigations. Meanwhile, developments in brain imaging technology have made psychedelics a necessary tool for neuroscience research. As the decade has progressed, investigations including cannabis, ketamine, ibogaine, ayahuasca, psilocybin, and LSD have yielded ground-breaking discoveries. The quantity of scholarly papers on psilocybin and LSD over the last nine decades is an intriguing indicator of where psychedelic research is going.

Luckily, the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research makes accessing and understanding this timeline of research easy. The world-renowned institution has recently released a timeline of psilocybin advanced that have occurred in the last few decades.

In this article, we’ll take a look at Johns Hopkins’ in-depth report on the timeline of psilocybin advances.

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The Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research is at the forefront of research into novel psilocybin therapies. Psilocybin, the natural psychedelic chemical found in magic mushrooms, has a molecular structure that makes it possible to penetrate the central nervous system, and scientists and doctors are only now beginning to understand its effects on the brain and mind, as well as its potential as a therapeutic for mental illnesses. Researchers are building on earlier work and expanding study on psychedelics for sickness and wellbeing, thanks to $17 million in funding. This is done in order to develop new treatments for a wider range of psychiatric and behavioral disorders, with the goal of tailoring treatments to the specific needs of individual patients, as well as to expand research in healthy volunteers, with the ultimate goal of finding new ways to support human flourishing.

A chronology of the various achievements in psilocybin research was just presented by the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research. Below is a chronology of events that Johns Hopkins has been involved in.

The Timeline

The history of Johns Hopkin’s involvement in psilocybin research is as follows:

  • 2000 – The FDA approves the resumption of psychedelic research. A group of Johns Hopkins researchers was the first in the United States to receive regulatory authority to resume psychedelic research with healthy volunteers who had no prior exposure with the drugs.
  • Johns Hopkins researchers undertake a landmark study that kickstarts the rebirth of psilocybin research in 2006. A special publication on the safety and long-term favorable benefits of a single dosage of psilocybin has been issued. It is widely regarded as a seminal study that spawned a new wave of psychedelic research throughout the world.
  • Safety guidelines for the use of psilocybin are published in 2008. The staff at the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic Research emphasizes the importance of safety in psychedelic research. Others in the area have embraced the approaches advocated in this paper.
  • 2014 – A psilocybin study reveals that mushrooms can aid in the cessation of nicotine addiction in long-term smokers. According to Johns Hopkins researchers, a small proportion of long-term smokers who had failed several efforts to quit the habit were able to do so after using psilocybin in the context of a cognitive behavioral therapy treatment program.
  • 2016 – Researchers discover that psilocybin can help patients with life-threatening cancer and other terminal diseases cope with existential worry. According to Johns Hopkins researchers, a great majority of persons suffering from cancer-related anxiety or depression experienced significant alleviation with a single big dosage of psilocybin for up to six months in a small double-blind study.
  • 2018 – The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine recommends that psilocybin be reclassified. According to a Johns Hopkins study of the drug’s safety and abuse studies in hallucinogenic mushrooms, psilocybin should be reclassified from a schedule I to a Schedule IV substance with tighter controls if it passes phase III clinical trials.
  • 2019 – According to new studies, psychedelic usage may lead to the development of remedies for alcoholism. An online study of over 300 patients with Alcohol Use Disorder found that after taking a psychedelic substance like psilocybin, LSD, or DMT, they reduced or were able to stop drinking. This study adds to the growing body of data in favor of additional research into psychedelic-assisted therapy for alcoholism and drug dependence. In 2019, Johns Hopkins University also established a psychedelic research center. the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins Medicine has received $17 million from a group of private donors, making it the first such research center in the United States and the largest of its type in the world. In the lack of federal funding for such therapeutic research in humans, the new institute will rely on the contributions announced today to advance the nascent area of psychedelics for treatments and wellbeing.
  • 2020 – Research indicates that psilocybin has a beneficial effect on the ego center of the brain. After using psilocybin, brain scans revealed that the claustrum was less active, indicating that the part of the brain responsible for establishing attention and switching tasks is turned down while using the drug. This, according to the researchers, corresponds to what individuals experience as typical psychedelic drug effects, such as sensations of being linked to everything and a diminished sense of self or ego.
  • 2021 – After fifty years, Johns Hopkins receives the first federal grant for psychedelic therapy research in 2021. The National Institutes of Health has given Johns Hopkins Medicine funding to investigate the effects of psilocybin on cigarette addiction. This is the first NIH grant in more than a half-century to examine the therapeutic benefits of a classic psychedelic, according to a recent study published online that looked at NIH funding between 2006 and 2020 and found zero funds were given. The multisite, three-year research will be led by Johns Hopkins Medicine in conjunction with the University of Alabama at Birmingham and New York University.

Other Advances in Psilocybin Study

While the Johns Hopkins timeline notes many important advances that the institution has been a part of, there are also many other recent advancements in psilocybin research that is worth celebrating.

COMPASS Pathways, another organization that has been given “breakthrough therapy” status, is currently working on a study to help understand how psilocybin can treat otherwise treatment-resistant depression. In 2018, the FDA designated COMPASS’ COMP360 psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression (TRD) as a Breakthrough Therapy. They finished a phase IIb randomized, controlled, double-blind study of COMP360 psilocybin treatment in 233 TRD patients in 22 sites across Europe and North America in late 2021. Psilocybin dosages ranged from 25mg to 10mg to 1mg to no psilocybin. The results were astounding: compared to the 1mg group, at least twice as many patients in the 25mg group demonstrated response and remission in the third and twelfth weeks. Up to week twelve, the protocol-defined sustained response was twice as high in the 25mg group as it was in the 1mg group, with 20.3% of patients in the 25mg group compared to 10.1% in the 1mg group. The difference was more than twice when using a criterion of persistent response that is similar with previous TRD research, with 24.1% of patients in the 25mg group versus 10.1% in the 1mg group. To put it simply, this study found an incredible link between TRD and psilocybin as a therapy.

There has also been research that supports the notion that psilocybin can quite literally repair brain connections. One study in 2021 compiled significant evidence that psilocybin can be used to treat the aftermath symptoms of stroke and traumatic brain injuries. Even after undergoing therapy, about half of people who have had a serious TBI that necessitates hospitalization remain disabled. Despite decades of research, pharmaceutical therapy of brain damage remains a young area. Clinical trials for the use of psychedelic medicines in the treatment of brain damage have recently begun. This review, published in 2021, seeks to describe the present state of science’s relevance to neurorehabilitation and serve as a resource for anyone looking to understand the precedent for these ongoing clinical studies.

We recommend reading the review in its entirety. However, it can be summed up briefly: Psychedelic pharmacotherapies may affect the future of brain injury therapy by modulating neuroinflammation, hippocampal neurogenesis, neuroplasticity, and brain complexity, according to recent in vitro, in vivo, and case report investigations. Historical data on the safety of some of these chemicals might be used as a substitute for phase 0 and phase 1 research. More phase II trials will reveal how these medications may be used to treat brain damage, including TBI and stroke reperfusion injury. According to evidence grouped into the review, psilocybin has been seen to treat neuroinflammation, facilitate neurogenesis in the hippocampus, improve neuroplasticity, and increase brain complexity.

In addition to all of these great findings, there have been recent advancements in psilocybin activism as well. The International Therapeutic Psilocybin Rescheduling Initiative (also known as ITPRI) recently launched their initiative to convince nations included in the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances to reconsider the Schedule 1 status of psilocybin. Using the numerous research studies available that support psilocybin’s effectiveness at treating a wide range of health conditions, the ITPRI is pushing for Schedule 2 or less for psilocybin. In its current schedule, psilocybin is considered dangerous and not medically relevant. With a new designation, psilocybin could become more accessible as a medical treatment in the U.S. and beyond.

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