The 100th scientific publication with Heffter support has just been published, marking a milestone achievement for Heffter! The first one, in 1998, was about the safety of hallucinogens. Most of the earlier papers were about the effects of MDMA and psilocybin in normal subjects, to understand how these drugs affect neurochemistry, brain function, and subjective consciousness. They are found in the Neuroscience section of our publications page.
The first treatment research Heffter supported was carried out in Russia, testing the effectiveness of ketamine treatment for heroin addiction, and published in 2002. The first US psychedelic treatment study of any kind in about 40 years was funded by Heffter at the University of Arizona, on psilocybin treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and published in 2006. The next significant treatment study was for emotional distress in cancer patients at Harbor-UCLA published in 2011, which paved the way for the two landmark studies in cancer patients in December 2016 from Johns Hopkins and NYU.
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As you can see, we have made huge progress in demonstrating the value of psilocybin both as a tool to understand consciousness, and as a novel treatment modality for serious psychiatric conditions that are not well addressed by current approaches. A recent survey shows that the American public also wants psychedelic treatment to be available. Stay tuned for more in the coming years!
In 2005, four Heffter-funded research papers on the safety and benefits of ayahuasca in adolescent members of the União do Vegetal church in Brazil were published, showing that the members were generally functioning at least as well as non-ayahuasca users. The same year, a Heffter-supported study published on the safety of peyote use by the Native American Church found similar results, including no neuropsychological effects from long-term peyote use. That study was unique in that is was co-funded by Heffter, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Harvard, and MAPS. These are in the Spirituality section of the publications page.
In 2008, Heffter-supported publications on spirituality and meditation began to appear in print, including a 14-month follow-up on the landmark 2006 Hopkins study of the effects of psilocybin on mystical experience and related improvements in the quality of life in normal subjects. A long paper describing how to safely administer psilocybin to humans was also published in 2008, and remains the primary guide for all psilocybin research since then.
We came back to addiction research in 2014 with a Hopkins study on psilocybin treatment for smoking cessation, and then in 2015 using psilocybin treatment for alcoholism at the University of New Mexico. Both conditions are now being studied in expanded Heffter-funded clinical trials at Hopkins and NYU. We are also currently supporting a study of psilocybin-assisted therapy for cocaine addiction at the University of Alabama, Birmingham.
• The results reported in these 100 publications have been more positive than we have expected, and with virtually no new safety concerns discovered in the many studies represented here.
• What’s not reported in the papers is the enormous amount of work involved in each study, including educating the administrators at the various institutions that this is a safe and valuable field of research. Recruiting normal subjects for basic science studies is not a problem, but recruiting patients with health problems takes much longer. The extra effort helps us achieve our goal of finding new ways to treat difficult conditions that resist conventional treatments.
Going forward, we plan to study psilocybin treatment for other conditions, such as anorexia (the most lethal psychiatric illness), opioid addiction (now a growing public health problem), and PTSD.