Advancing studies on psilocybin for cancer distress and addiction with the highest standards of scientific research



The Heffter Research Institute promotes research of the highest scientific quality with the classic
hallucinogens and related compounds (sometimes called psychedelics) in order to contribute to a greater
understanding of the mind leading to the improvement of the human condition, and to alleviate suffering.


The Heffter Research Institute was incorporated in New Mexico in 1993 as a non-profit, 501(c)(3) scientific organization. Since its inception,
Heffter has been helping to design, review, and fund the leading studies on psilocybin at prominent research institutions in the US and Europe.
Our research has explored psilocybin for the treatment of cancer-related distress and addiction, for understanding the relationship between the psychedelic
experience and spirituality, and for basic science research into the physiology of brain activity, cognition, and behavior. The Heffter Institute believes that
psychedelics have great, unexplored potential that requires independently funded scientific research to find their best uses in medical treatment.
We are not an endowed foundation, and so there is a continuous need for funding to support this critical research. 

Dr. Arthur Heffter

The Institute is named in honor of Dr. Arthur Heffter,
a turn-of-the-century German research pharmacologist, who was the first scientist to study, systematically, a naturally-occurring hallucinogen, publishing his work in 1897.






    Dr. Nichols originally conceived of a privately funded Institute as the most effective mechanism for bringing research on psychedelic agents into the modern era of neuroscience. This vision led to the founding of the Heffter Research Institute in 1993. Prior to his retirement in June 2012, he was the Robert C. and Charlotte P. Anderson Distinguished Chair in Pharmacology at the Purdue University College of Pharmacy, and also was adjunct Professor of Pharmacology at the Indiana University School of Medicine. He is currently an Adjunct Professor at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, NC, where he continues his research. In 2004 he was named the Irwin H. Page Lecturer, and in 2006 was named the first Provost’s s Outstanding Graduate Mentor at Purdue. The focus of his graduate training, beginning in 1969, and of much of his research subsequent to receiving his doctorate in 1973 has been the investigation of the relationship between molecular structure and the action of psychedelic agents and other substances that modify behavioral states. His research has been continuously funded by government agencies for more three decades. He consults for the pharmaceutical industry and has served on numerous committees and government research review groups. Widely published in the scientific literature and internationally recognized for his research on centrally active drugs, he has studied all of the major classes of psychedelic agents, including LSD and other lysergic acid derivatives, psilocybin and the tryptamines, and phenethylamines related to mescaline. Among scientists, he is recognized as one of the foremost experts on the medicinal chemistry of hallucinogens. His high standards and more than four decades of research experience set the tone to ensure that rigorous methods and quality science are pursued by the Institute.



    Dr. Greer conducted over 100 therapeutic sessions with MDMA for 80 individuals from 1980 to 1985 with his psychiatric nurse wife, Requa Tolbert. Their review of this work remains the largest published study of the therapeutic use of MDMA. He is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and Past President of the Psychiatric Medical Association of New Mexico. He was also the Clinical Director of Mental Health Services for the New Mexico Corrections Department during the 1990s. He has been the Medical Director of the Heffter Research Institute since 1998.



    Robert Barnhart has a BA in comparative religion from Emory University in Atlanta, GA. He has been a strong advocate for the study of psychoactive materials in spiritual and nontraditional healing practices. He is currently producing a documentary film about the use of these medicines in healing practices.



    Dr. Geyer is a psychopharmacologist and neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego, where he holds the position of Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences and Vice-Chair for Scientific Affairs in the Department of Psychiatry. He is actively involved in both the Ph.D. Group in Neurosciences and the Clinical Psychology Ph.D. Program, and is the Director of the Neuropsychopharmacology Unit of the VA VISN 22 Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center. Since receiving his doctorate in Psychology in 1972, he has focused on basic research addressing the behavioral and neurobiological effects of psychoactive drugs. For over 25 years, he has had continuous funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to study the behavioral effects of hallucinogens in animals. Dr. Geyer is internationally known for his research on the psychophysiology, neurobiology, and pharmacotherapy of schizophrenia. He has published over 350 peer-reviewed papers, including many addressing the mechanisms subserving the effects of psychostimulants, hallucinogens, and entactogens. Dr. Geyer is an Associate Editor for Neuropsychopharmacology and is on the Editorial Board for additional highly ranked international journals. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology and past President of the international Serotonin Club. Dr. Geyer’s broad experience as a researcher, grant reviewer, journal editor, and teacher lends invaluable scientific and professional expertise to the Institute as he provides the leadership to develop a strong program in the behavioral psychopharmacology of psychedelic agents.



    Elizabeth Gordon has always had a fascination with the impact of psychoactive materials on societies throughout history. She has been active in a number of humanitarian causes related to developing a peaceful and environmentally sustainable culture. She has a strong belief that the introduction of these ancient substances into modern societies may lead not only to novel medicines, but also to spiritual healing and a more healthy existence for all people. She continues to be involved with The Heffter Research Institute in a fund development capacity and through service on the board.



    Roland R. Griffiths, Ph.D., is Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His principal research focus in both clinical and preclinical laboratories has been on the behavioral and subjective effects of mood-altering drugs. His research has been largely supported by grants from the National Institute on Health and he is author of over 300 journal articles and book chapters. He has been a consultant to the National Institutes of Health, and to numerous pharmaceutical companies in the development of new psychotropic drugs. He is also currently a member of the Expert Advisory Panel on Drug Dependence for the World Health Organization. He has an interest in meditation and is the lead investigator of the psilocybin research initiative at Johns Hopkins, which includes studies of psilocybin occasioned mystical experience in healthy volunteers and cancer patients, and a pilot study of psilocybin-facilitated smoking cessation. (Participation by Board Member does not constitute or imply endorsement by the Johns Hopkins University or the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System.)



    Dr. Grob is currently Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at the UCLA School of Medicine and the Director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. He has a long-standing interest in the history of psychiatric research with hallucinogens, and has published in the psychiatric literature and has given talks at professional meetings in this area. Dr. Grob received the first FDA approval to carry out human research with 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA). He collaborated with Drs. Dennis McKenna and Jace Callaway on a project to study the biochemical, physiological, and psychological parameters of long-term ayahuasca use in Brazil. In collaboration with Dr. Marlene Dobkin de Rios, he has examined the sociocultural context within which the use of these compounds occurs. In 2004 Dr. Grob initiated an FDA approved research investigation examining the effects of psilocybin in advanced-stage cancer patients with severe anxiety, which was completed in 2008. He is also the editor of Hallucinogens: A Reader, and the co-editor with Dr. Roger Walsh of Higher Wisdom: Eminent Elders Explore the Continuing Impact of Psychedelics.



    Bill Linton received a BS in Biological Sciences from University of California-Berkeley and did post-graduate work in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Pharmaceutical Chemistry program. In 2004, Bill received an honorary Doctor of Philosophy degree from Hannam University (Taejon, Korea) in recognition of his global support for the advancement of technology and support of education in the Life Sciences.

    Bill founded Promega Corporation in 1978 and has served continuously as Chairman, President and CEO. A life science research company, Promega has grown to 1,200 employees worldwide with direct offices in 15 countries and an additional 55 distributors. Initially supporting university researchers, Promega now serves scientists in basic research, drug discovery, forensics and clinical diagnostics.

    As an employer, Promega is recognized for creating an “employee as individual” workplace, acknowledging and supporting work-life balance and nurturing personal and professional creativity and innovation.

    Creativity and discovery are also platforms for integration with community. In 1991, Promega established Woods Hollow Children’s Center (WHCC), providing infant through school-age childcare for the local community as well as Promega employees. In 1993, the BioPharmaceutical Technology Center Institute (BTCI), a non-profit education, science and cultural institute, was established. BTCI offers programs and learning access to students of all ages. It is also known for its annual Bioethics Forum. Bill had a guiding hand in the most recent Forums which explored the understanding of human consciousness from multiple angles of science, including physics, neuroscience and ethnobotany.



    Dennis McKenna’s professional and personal interests are focused on the interdisciplinary study of ethnopharmacology and plant hallucinogens. He received his doctorate in 1984 from the University of British Columbia, where his doctoral research focused on ethnopharmacological investigations of the botany, chemistry, and pharmacology of ayahuasca and oo-koo-he, two orally-active tryptamine-based hallucinogens used by indigenous peoples in the Northwest Amazon. Dr. McKenna received post-doctoral research fellowships in the Laboratory of Clinical Pharmacology, National Institute of Mental Health, and in the Department of Neurology, Stanford University School of Medicine. He joined Shaman Pharmaceuticals as Director of Ethnopharmacology in 1990, and relocated to Minnesota in 1993 to join the Aveda Corporation as Senior Research Pharmacognosist. He joined the faculty of the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota in 2001. He is a founding board member of the Heffter Research Institute and serves on the advisory board of non-profit organizations in the fields of ethnobotany and botanical medicines. He was a key organizer and participant in the Hoasca Project, an international biomedical study of ayahuasca used by indigenous people and syncretic religious groups in Brasil. He recently completed a project, funded by the Stanley Medical Research Institute, to investigate Amazonian ethnomedicines for the treatment of schizophrenia and cognitive deficits. At the Heffter Research Institute, he continues his focus on the therapeutic uses of psychoactive medicines derived from nature and used in indigenous ethnomedical practices.



    T. Cody Swift, M.A. received his masters degree in existential-phenomenological counseling from Seattle University and is currently perusing licensure in California. He has worked as a guide at Johns Hopkins University in the psilocybin cancer-anxiety study, and is currently conducting qualitative research into the nature of healing with psychedelics in a clinical setting, with MDMA and psilocybin. Cody is also a current director of the Riverstyx Foundation which is dedicated to advancing reforms in the end-of-life care, addiction recovery, and criminal justice fields. Since 2008, he has extensively supported research into psychedelic medicines as a promising psychological treatment that allows for a deeper exploration of oneself and one’s condition, leading to sustained healing and growth.



    Carey Turnbull was Global Chairman of inter-dealer energy market derivative and futures broker Amerex, which he co-founded in 1983, and whose North American operations were sold in 2006 to become the energy brokerage division of NYSE listed GFI Group (www.amerexenergy.com). He is presently co-founder and Chairman of North American Power, a retail energy marketer serving 300,000 electricity and natural gas customers in eleven states (www.napower.com). Mr. Turnbull is a member of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees at Goddard College, from which he graduated in 1973. He is also Development Director for the New York University School of Medicine Psychiatry Department’s palliative care Cancer Anxiety Study. He divides his time between New York and Bar Harbor, Maine.



    Dr. Franz X. Vollenweider is currently the Vice-Director of Research and Teaching and Director of the “Neuropsychopharmacology and Brain Imaging” Research Unit of the University Hospital of Psychiatry Zürich East, and Professor of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine, University of Zürich. He is also the Director of Heffter Research Centre Zürich for Consciousness Studies (HRC-ZH), which he founded in 1998 and incorporated in his research group.

    Dr. Vollenweider received his MD degree at the University of Zürich. He completed his doctoral thesis in experimental medicine at the Institute of Toxicology of the University and ETH of Zürich, was trained in neurochemistry at the Brain Research Institute of the University of Zürich, and in neuroimaging at the PET Centre of the PSI-ETH. In 1994 he became certified in the specialities of psychiatry and psychotherapy. His research interests encompass the area of psychopathology, cognitive neuroscience, and behavioural psychopharmacology of psychotic and affective disorders.

    Current research focuses on the investigation of the functional networks and transmitter dynamics underlying the experience of self, visual perception, cognitive and emotional processes and the dysfunctions of these processes in human models of psychoses and psychiatric patients. Multiple approaches including measures of information processing, event-related potentials, and brain imaging techniques are used for studying these functions.

    Dr. Vollenweider has published over 80 peer-reviewed papers, many of which address the mechanisms of action of psychostimulants, hallucinogens, and entactogens in humans. His research is supported by multiple grants from the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Swiss Federal Health Office, and the Heffter Research Institute (USA), and by multiple AWARDS from the NARSAD and the Fetzer Research Institute USA. He has received the Achievement Award of the Swiss Society of Psychiatry (1990), the Heffter Research Institute Award (1997), the Götz Prize of the University of Zürich (2000), and the British Association of Psychopharmacology Prize (2002).



    Lynette Herring lives outside Santa Fe, New Mexico and has been an accounting and non-profit consultant for 30 years. She has been the Business Manager for the Heffter Research Institute since 1998.



Psilocybin is a psychoactive substance that acts on serotonin brain receptors resulting in changes of perception, cognition, and emotion. In medicine, psilocybin and similar substances such as mescaline and dimethyltryptamine (DMT) are often called psychedelics or “hallucinogens,” though they usually do not cause actual hallucinations.

Psilocybin occurs naturally in certain mushrooms (also referred to as “magic mushrooms”). For possibly thousands of years, mushrooms containing psilocybin have been used in religious and healing practices to induce mystical or spiritual states of consciousness. Under clinical supervision, psilocybin has shown to produce important insights and memories, greater access to emotions, and help provide perspective around life meaning, which can all contribute to relief from anxiety and addictive patterns.

The Psilocybin Session

All Heffter sponsored trials with psilocybin follow a similar protocol to ensure safety for the participant and efficacy of their treatment. Prior to enrollment, participants are screened for current and prior history of serious mental illness to gauge appropriateness of the treatment. Once enrolled, participants spend several weeks prior to their psilocybin session developing close rapport and trust with the study team and their two guides and to establish an intimate understanding of the participant’s psychological history and treatment goals. Psilocybin is administered in a specially designed living-room style room, decorated with artwork, comfortable furniture, and soft lighting. It specifically avoids a “laboratory” look and feel. Participants take a single capsule of psilocybin administered by their two male and female study guides who are present for interpersonal support throughout the entire session. During most of the 8-hour session, participants are encouraged to lie on the couch, wearing eyeshades and listening to supportive music through headphones, and thus much of the time in which psilocybin is in effect will be spent in quiet internal reflection. Follow-up sessions in the days and months after the psilocybin dosing will help participants to further integrate aspects of their psilocybin experience. Medical support is available on-site.

How long will the effect of psilocybin last?

While the session itself may last up to eight hours, research has shown that even a one-time experience with psilocybin in a clinical setting can reliably occasion dramatic shifts in consciousness and awareness that may lead to long-term, sustained improvement in anxiety, depression, as well as one’s sense of overall wellbeing and spiritual connection.

Psilocybin is a powerful medicine and it is Heffter’s position that the positive effects found in research to date are achieved only when prescribed by a doctor and used in a therapeutic setting. Safety has not been demonstrated for psilocybin when used outside of a structured clinical or laboratory setting and we strongly caution against recreational use of psilocybin because of potential adverse psychological reactions.