The Heffter Research Institute promotes research with psychedelics to contribute to a greater understanding of the mind, leading to the improvement of the human condition, and to alleviate suffering. Heffter scientists believe that the unexplored potential of psychedelics requires careful scientific research to find their best uses in medical treatment.
Psilocybin is the active ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms. It occurs naturally in certain mushrooms and has been used for thousands of years in religious and healing practices to induce mystical or spiritual states of consciousness.
Heffter’s research agenda has explored using psilocybin for the treatment of cancer-related distress and drug, alcohol, and tobacco addiction, for understanding the relationship between the psychedelic experience and spirituality, and for basic science research into the physiology of brain activity, cognition, and behavior. A growing number of groundbreaking discoveries demonstrate powerful potential medical uses for psilocybin. In double-blind clinical trials, psilocybin-aided psychotherapy has been shown to produce important insights, promote greater access to emotions, and help provide perspective around life meaning, all of which can contribute to long-lasting relief from anxiety, depression and addictive patterns. These results are produced after only one or a few treatments.
Heffter-funded scientists have designed the leading studies on psilocybin at prominent research institutions in the U.S. and Europe, including Johns Hopkins University, New York University, University of California-Los Angeles, the University of Zürich, and Yale University.
Before psilocybin is administered, patients are screened for prior history of serious mental illness and spend a few weeks establishing an alliance with their therapist and an understanding of their treatment goals. One to three guide-supported and doctor-supervised outpatient treatment sessions are conducted in a specially designed living-room style room, decorated with artwork, comfortable furniture, and soft lighting. During sessions, patients are encouraged to lie on the couch, wear eyeshades and listen to supportive music through headphones. Thus much of the time in which psilocybin has an effect will be spent in quiet internal reflection. Afterwards, follow-up sessions days to months later help patients integrate aspects of their experience to ensure lasting impact.
The effects of psilocybin usually last 4 to 6 hours. However, research has shown that even a one-time experience with psilocybin in a clinical setting can reliably occasion dramatic shifts in consciousness and awareness that may lead to long-term, sustained improvement in anxiety and depression, as well as in one’s sense of overall wellbeing and spiritual connection.
Yes, psilocybin has been shown to be safe under medical supervision. It is non-addictive, and potentially more effective at treating some significant psychological diseases than traditional psychiatric approaches, and without having to take a medication every day. This medicine has the ability to improve millions of lives.
Drawing on the scientific expertise and longstanding partnership of the world’s leading investigators of psychedelics, Heffter incubates the next generation of psilocybin researchers and guides, vets new approaches, supports proof-of-concept studies, and gathers the evidence base for therapeutic treatments that, pending FDA approval, will be available to patients in need. The U.S. government has not yet, however, funded this important research.
Because psilocybin occurs naturally, it cannot be patented, and without a way to profit from psilocybin therapy, large pharmaceutical companies have not funded this research. A non-profit model is needed to provide independent funding for this research. Heffter has been the primary supporter of psilocybin treatment research in the United States for more than 20 years.
Psilocybin is a powerful medicine and it is Heffter’s position that the positive effects found in research to date are achieved only when administered under medically supervised conditions in a therapeutic setting by individuals with special training. Safety has not been demonstrated for psilocybin when used outside of a structured clinical or laboratory setting, and Heffter strongly cautions against recreational use of psilocybin because of potential adverse psychological reactions.