Johns Hopkins Psilocybin Research Project: Studies of Mystical Experience and Meditation in Healthy Volunteers, and Palliative Effects in Cancer Patients

Roland R. Griffiths, PhD

Abstract: This presentation will review recent and ongoing psilocybin research at Johns Hopkins. Two recent studies showed that under carefully controlled conditions psilocybin can occasion profound personally and spiritually meaningful mystical-type experiences in healthy participants. Sixty-five percent of participants met criteria for having had a “complete” mystical experience. These effects were an increasing function of dose (5, 10, 20, and 30 mg/70 kg). Analysis showed that mystical-type experiences mediate sustained positive changes in attitudes, moods, personality, and behavior. One third of volunteers indicated they had a strong or extreme experience of fear sometime during the session. An ongoing study in novice meditators is exploring whether psilocybin-occasioned experiences can enhance the positive persisting effects of meditation and other spiritual practices. A therapeutic study is currently investigating psilocybin-facilitated treatment of anxiety and depression in cancer patients.

Desired Outcomes for : At the conclusion of the activity, learners will be able to:

  1. Inform patients about new research into the risks and clinical effectiveness of psilocybin as a treatment for anxiety associated with advanced-stage illness
  2. Refer patients to clinical research studies
  3. Develop strategies for conducting their own clinical research on psychedelics
  4. Evaluate research on psilocybin-assisted treatments as new literature becomes available

Roland R. Griffiths, PhD, is Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His principal research focus in both clinical and preclinical laboratories has been on the behavioral and subjective effects of mood-altering drugs. His research has been largely supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and he is author of over 300 journal articles and book chapters. He has been a consultant to the NIH, and to numerous pharmaceutical companies in the development of new psychotropic drugs. He is also currently a member of the Expert Advisory Panel on Drug Dependence for the World Health Organization. He has conducted extensive research with sedative-hypnotics and caffeine. About 12 years ago, he initiated a research program with the classic hallucinogen psilocybin, including studies of psilocybin occasioned mystical-type experience in healthy volunteers and cancer patients, and a pilot study of psilocybin-facilitated smoking cessation.

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