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The Dell Medical School at the University of Texas has broadcasted the launch of their Center for Psychedelic Research and Therapy. This is just six months after Governor Greg Abbott approved legislation that would require the state to research the risks and benefits of psilocybin, MDMA, and ketamine for military veterans. The center launched by the Dell Medical School is the first of its kind within the state of Texas.

Scientists working at the center will run various clinical studies with the goal of probing the capacity of psychedelic-assisted therapy to treat depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD with the help of different substances like psilocybin, MDMA, ibogaine, and ayahuasca. As per the Center’s co-lead Charles Nemeroff, the center’s “research will bring further scientific rigor and expertise to study psychedelic therapy.” Nemeroff is a professor and the current chair of Dell Med’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

The first focal point will be on military veterans suffering from PTSD. This is a huge population that the senators were particularly eager to assist when the Texas State Senate approved the bill mentioned earlier. With approximately 1.6 million veterans, Texas has the nation’s second-largest veteran population. The past research and testimonies that have exhibited the ability of psychedelics to remedy their past trauma in the state this has undoubtedly powered the generally conservative state’s dedication to this progressive bailiwick. 

Heroic Hearts Project

A non-profit organization, The Heroic Hearts Project, has been working tremendously on a forefront psilocybin research program to treat veterans living with a traumatic brain injury with the use of psychedelics. This will be among the center’s initial program partners. This is together with The Mission Within, a clinical psychedelic retreat facilitator in Rosarito, Mexico. The Mission Within specializes in developing treatments for PTSD, mTBI, depression, anxiety, and even personal growth.   

“This work has the potential to change the paradigm in mental health and firmly stamps UT Austin at the forefront of psychiatric innovation,” said UT alumnus Paul Barnhart III. He is one of the first donors that have supported the center, which would also accommodate individuals with prolonged grief disorder or depression together with those who have experienced some form of childhood trauma.

Greg Fonzo will co-direct the center with Professor Nemeroff. Fonzo is an assistant professor in Dell Med’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science. Fonzo will look into how psilocybin and transcranial magnetic stimulation work together to provide long-term relief for stress-related depression and anxiety. This is possible now that the center has received funding to begin its initial work.

“A key ingredient in how psychedelic therapies promote mental health may be their ability to enhance neural plasticity, the process that allows the brain to adapt to new experiences – which when combined with brain modulation therapies may promote maximum benefit” Fonzo mentioned. “The potential implications are far-reaching for people with these conditions and their families, and also for the future of mental health treatment and care.”

The Movement is Gaining Steam

The Center for Psychedelic Research and Therapy is one of several academic institutions sprouting up across North America in response to renewed interest in psychedelics, which were first presented to mainstream attention and study in the mid-1950s before America’s War on Drugs drove research underground by the early 1970s.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Pharmacy became the first in the country to offer a master’s program in psychedelic medicine. It then established the UW-Madison Transdisciplinary Center for Research in Psychoactive Substances to harmonize its ongoing study and education on psychedelic compounds. Meanwhile, the University of Ottawa in Canada has a psychedelic studies program as well as a master’s program.