World-first Psychedelics Research Centre in UK

The Centre for Psychedelics Research will pursue study into the clinical use of psychedelics to treat a number of mental health conditionsfrescomovie/Depositphotos

In an incredible milestone, representing the ongoing legitimization of psychedelic science, a formal facility dedicated to the study of psychedelics has been launched at Imperial College London. While the newly established Centre for Psychedelics Research is not the only major psychedelic research group in the world, it is the first to be officially integrated into a large academic institution.

The Centre will be led by Robin Carhart-Harris, a leading UK figure in the new wave of psychedelic research. Carhart-Harris has worked for well over a decade in the field of psychopharmacology, and is known for completing the first modern brain imaging study of the effects of LSD.

“This new Centre represents a watershed moment for psychedelic science; symbolic of its now mainstream recognition,” says Carhart-Harris. “Psychedelics are set to have a major impact on neuroscience and psychiatry in the coming years. It’s such a privilege to be at the forefront of one of the most exciting areas in medical science. I am immensely grateful to the donors who have made all of this possible.”

The Centre is funded by over £3 million (US$3.8 million) in donations from five founding donors, and its initial research strands will investigate the clinical utility of psychedelics in mental health care, and the fundamental actions of psychedelics on the brain.

One fascinating trial already underway by Carhart-Harris and the Imperial research team is an investigation into psilocybin as treatment for major depressive disorder. Psilocybin, the major psychoactive component in magic mushrooms, was just last year granted a Breakthrough Therapy designation by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), suggesting the treatment demonstrates significant potential in early clinical evidence.

This latest randomized control trial is set to be the first to directly compare the effects of psilocybin on depression against a conventional SSRI antidepressant drug. Another trial is being prepared to look at the efficacy of psilocybin as a treatment for anorexia.

“It may take a few years for psychedelic therapy to be available for patients, but research so far has been very encouraging,” says Carhart-Harris. “Early stage clinical research has shown that when delivered safely and professionally, psychedelic therapy holds a great deal of promise for treating some very serious mental health conditions and may one day offer new hope to vulnerable people with limited treatment options.”