Federal Agency Is Interested To Study How Psychedelics May Treat Drug Addiction
NIDA To Invest $1.5 Million In Psychedelic Research
Research into the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics are at an all-time high.
It is clear that psychedelic use has caught the attention of medical professionals, given the widespread (and growing) consumption of psychedelic drugs among adults around the world. Hallucinogens such as magic mushrooms, LSD, DMT, and other ‘classical’ psychedelics are experiencing a heyday – much needed, after many decades of prohibition and the War on Drugs. According to a Columbia study in 2022, over 5.5 million people in the United States alone have admitted to consuming hallucinogens in the last year, which is increasing annually.
Psychedelics are used to alter one’s perceptions and thoughts, though they also have valuable therapeutic benefits. They have been proven to help treat anxiety, ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and now, even addiction. These conditions have been notoriously difficult to treat in the medical arena, yet, psychedelics have shown to be promising in miraculously treating these illnesses, where pharmaceuticals and modern medicine have failed – especially in addiction.
Now, a federal agency is interested to learn more.
NIDA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is among the top federal agencies in the United States. According to a report by Marijuana Moment, NIDA is now asking for proposals to begin research into how psychedelics can help with drug addiction. They also announced that they are ready to fund $1.5 million worth for these studies. Last week, NIDA posted three NOFOS (notices of funding opportunities) for research with a special interest in ayahuasca and psilocybin for treating individuals who are struggling with substance use disorders.
The notices primary emphasize the same goals, but NIDA is also interested in a study that explores how psychedelics work. Clinical human trials are also needed, while there are also opportunities for non-clinical trials where NIDA states the objective is to “elucidate and validate the molecular, cellular, circuitry and structural mechanisms and pathways that underly the pharmacology of psychedelic compounds for treating substance use disorders (SUDs) and related psychiatric and neurological co-morbidities.”
“While broad theoretical frameworks for the mechanisms of psychedelic-induced neurobiological and behavioral changes have been recently posited, empirical tests and refinements of these overarching theoretical frameworks are necessary to move the field forward,” reads one of the notices from NIDA.
“There is a great need for innovative treatments to help people with substance use disorders. Early research has shown that some psychedelic compounds may be effective in treating certain conditions, including addiction, but more research is needed to understand the potential risks and benefits of these substances,” says Nora Volkow, NIDA’s Director. During a Senate hearing, she acknowledged that the drug war and stigma against psychedelic substances has caused an obstacle into psychedelic research.
“We’re actually engaging the scientific community to try to understand how psychedelic drugs can be potentially utilized for the treatment – how they affect the brain, and how to deploy them in ways that are going to be safe and very effective,” she says.
The Future of Psychedelics Looks Bright
There are well over a hundred clinical trials at the moment, more of which are available on clinicaltrials.gov, needing volunteers for research. Volunteers are critical to provide scientists and researchers with a better understanding of how psilocybin and other hallucinogens work, such as MDMA, LSD, DMT, and many others. Without these clinical trials, we wouldn’t be able to see psychedelic-based therapies on the market. Additionally, the US Food and Drug Administration as well as Health Canada and other regulatory bodies rely on clinical data to verify the safety or efficacy of any drug for a specific condition.
This just goes to show how much interest there is surrounding psychedelic therapies these days. Right now, we already have several high-quality clinical studies that have helped push political and regulatory acceptance of psychedelics not just for mental health but for physical health as well. Pretty soon, we could see psychedelics being normalized in the same way that cannabis did very recently, which is fantastic news for thousands of people who could benefit from the therapeutic benefits of these drugs.
In the forefront of psychedelic research is MAPS, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, which is an American nonprofit that was established in 1986 to research and provide information on the safest, most effective ways to use marijuana as well as psychedelics. Federal agencies like NIDA have yet to catch on to the efforts of MAPS, who already owns the rights to a strong body of research on MDMA, psilocybin, ayahuasca, ibogaine, LSD, and marijuana.
It’s only a matter of time until we see psychedelic drugs on the market. Last year, a letter published in mid-2022 reveals that the Biden administration is getting ready for the use of MDMA to treat PTSD and other mental illnesses. Times are changing quickly, because just half a decade ago, we would never have thought it possible for a federal agency to respond and acknowledge the benefits of psychedelics so fast.
Even the government acknowledges that it would be impossible not to act on the opportunities available to help people with psychedelic drugs. Truth be told, the entire drug policy of the United States needs a face lift, but it helps to start with baby steps rather than nothing.
It has become blatantly obvious that drug reform is needed, so what is taking the government so long to take action on this matter?