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This fall, the federal government granted researchers funding to study the therapeutic potential of a classic psychedelic for the first time in 50 years. The National Institutes of Health granted Johns Hopkins Medicine, in collaboration with University of Alabama at Birmingham and New York University, $4 million to investigate if psilocybin — one of the primary psychoactive ingredients in psychedelic mushrooms — can help people quit smoking.

“This is a huge step for really solidifying the science [behind psychedelic research],” says principal investigator Matthew Johnson, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University. “NIH is the largest funder of biomedical research not just in the United States, but in the world and, in fact, the majority of the research upon which any pharmaceutical company is operating has been funded largely through NIH.”

We’re now amidst what many are referring to as the “Psychedelic Renaissance.” Around the time President Richard Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act into law in 1970, the flourishing research into psychedelics as therapeutic tools almost entirely stopped. Then, beginning in the 1990s with a study looking at DMT, and picking up in the 2000s with research at Johns Hopkins University looking at psilocybin for depression and anxiety in terminally ill patients, an abundance of psychedelic research began again — but it’s been funded privately, through philanthropy and investments.

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