A psychedelic revival is sweeping the country, and South Carolina is its next stop. The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) is reportedly planning to launch a new psychedelic research center, which is slated to open in mid-2021.
This new project is a collaboration between MUSC and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), an organization that's spearheaded clinical studies exploring the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs like psilocybin, MDMA, and LSD. The new center will reportedly be led by Dr. Michael Mithoefer, who currently works in the MUSC department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences.
For the past several years, Dr. Mithoefer conducted clinical trials in conjunction with MAPS to investigate whether MDMA can effectively treat PTSD. In 2017, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave MAPS the go-ahead to launch large-scale Phase III clinical trials. Based on the early success of these studies, the FDA has granted MDMA “Breakthrough Therapy” status, which could lead to the legalization of MDMA-assisted therapy by 2021.
“MDMA, the way we see it, is acting as a catalyst for psychotherapy,” said Mithoefer in a recent MUSC blog post. “It allows people to feel they can process their trauma without being overwhelmed by their anxiety. What we know from imaging data is that, very interestingly, MDMA decreases activity in the amygdala, the fear center of the brain, and it increases activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is kind of the higher processing center.”
In Mithoefer's study, “almost 70 percent of the people who got the full dose of MDMA... fared so well that they no longer met the criteria for post-traumatic disorder.” However, as MUCA points out in the blog post, Dr. Mithoefer was not able to conduct this groundbreaking research on the school campus, but instead conducted it at a private psychiatric clinic that he runs with his wife, Ann.
The creation of the new Psychedelic Research Center will allow Mithoefer and other researchers to collaborate on campus, using the university's resources. The center will also allow researchers to conduct larger-scale studies involving greater numbers of subjects. In addition to studying MDMA, the new research center also plans to explore the therapeutic potential of psilocybin, DMT, and mescaline.
Last fall, Johns Hopkins University opened their own psychedelic research unit, the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research. The opening of these new centers heralds a new era of psychedelic research, as scientists discover more and more ways that these federally prohibited drugs can help alleviate the symptoms of treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and drug abuse.