Below is a list of frequently asked questions about Heffter Research Institute and psilocybin research. You can also contact us for more information.

Where can I find out about being a psilocybin research subject?

Contact information about all the current studies recruiting patients can be found at https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/results?cond=&term=psilocybin, and you can check back there every few months to see when new studies begin recruiting.


A large, multi-center study conducted by the Usona Institute treating major depression has recently begun.  This will be a “Phase 3” study, which is required by FDA before the drug can be approved for prescription use.  You can sign up for the study here: usonainstitute.org


We definitely do not recommend that anyone try to treat themselves with psilocybin mushrooms.  There are psychological risks if you or close family members have had serious psychiatric symptoms.  The diagnostic screening for psychological risks, psychotherapy and support of trained clinicians is an absolutely essential part of the treatment.  That support is especially important when anxiety or other kinds of distress occur during the session, which is fairly common. Unsupervised use of psilocybin mushrooms can be emotionally traumatic without the support of clinicians who understand how to use it successfully.

Where can I find out about educational and work opportunities in psychedelic researcher and psychotherapy?

Regarding education, because there are no graduate programs that focus on psychedelic research, it’s probably best to find the program that you feel is the best fit for you.  Then you would be eligible for the post-graduate certificate program at CIIS to educate psychotherapists about this work: https://www.ciis.edu/public-programs-and-performances/certificate-programs/certificate-in-psychedelic-assisted-therapies-and-research.


In terms of working in the current research, Heffter does not conduct the research but performs scientific reviews of the proposals and then funds the studies at various medical schools.  If you are interested in participating, you should contact the researchers through the contact information for the studies listed at https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/results?cond=&term=psilocybin to see which ones are actively recruiting subjects.  You can check back there every few months to see when new studies begin recruiting.

What is the Heffter Research Institute? What does it do?

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.

What is psilocybin? Where does it come from?

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.

Where has psilocybin research been conducted?

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.

What types of maladies can psilocybin be used to treat? What has the research found?

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.

What does psilocybin therapy look like?

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.

How long will the effect of psilocybin last?

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.

Is psilocybin safe?

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.

What are the plans for future research?

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.

How will future psilocybin research be funded?

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.

Should psilocybin and other psychedelics be legalized for recreational use?

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.