After decades of criminalization by federal and state governments, psychedelics are finally seeing their day in the sun. Early research into psychedelics carried out in the late 1950s and early 1960s revealed that these substances may have some mental health benefits, but criminalization prevented researchers from studying hallucinogenic drugs further.
In recent years, a renaissance of psychedelic research has shown that these drugs can have profound and long-term benefits in the treatment of several mental health conditions, especially when they are paired with psychotherapy. This has resulted in a flurry of action among institutions across the world. Big Pharma and other major investors have poured millions of dollars into psychedelic research, and higher education institutions across the country have begun taking psychedelics seriously.
The University of California, Davis, recently joined the growing number of academic centers that are integrating psychedelics studies into their course lineups. The California-based institution has launched a psychedelic studies institute to push the boundaries of our current psychedelic knowledge and aid in the development of effective mental health treatments.
The program, called the Institute for Psychedelics and Neurotherapeutics, will liaise with the pharmaceutical industry and scientists from a wide range of disciplines to study and research psychedelics to develop new psychedelic-based therapies.
Associate professor David E. Olson of the Department of Molecular Medicine and Biochemistry and the Department of Chemistry at the institution, notes that psychedelics’ ability to trigger long-term changes in the brain makes them a potential treatment for several conditions. Olson, who will serve as the institute’s founding director, stated that if researchers could harness those beneficial properties and combine them with safer and scalable molecules, psychedelic-based therapies could help plenty of people.
He will be aided by John A. Gray, an associate professor in the Department of Neurology, who will act as the institute’s first associate director. Both Olson and Gray published a study in the “Cell Reports” journal that demonstrated how hallucinogenic drugs can encourage neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to grow new neurons and form new neural connections in response to intrinsic or extrinsic stimuli.
Gray explains that neuronal atrophy is a common mechanism behind many illnesses, and psychedelics have “broad therapeutic implications” because they can stimulate the growth of new neurons and neural connections in the brain.
The Institute will receive a $5 million investment from the vice chancellor for Research, the Office of the Provost, and the deans of the School of Medicine and the College of Letters and Science.
The research the UC Davis institute conducts is likely to complement what other entities such as Compass Pathways PLC (NASDAQ: CMPS) are already doing in the quest for efficacious formulations targeting different clinical conditions.
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