Newsletter Spring 2018

2018 is bringing new opportunities for Heffter’s research mission.  As the FDA Phase 3 work on psilocybin-assisted therapy for depression proceeds at the Usona Institute, Heffter is moving forward with its agenda to support research to test psilocybin’s healing potential for other conditions, such as addictions, eating disorders, and Alzheimer’s disease.

The work ahead is only possible because of the decades of work by scientists and supporters alike who are dedicated to psychedelic research and have been working together to bring a dream into reality.

We note that along with MAPS, the Beckley Foundation, and others, the Heffter Institute endorses the statement on open science initiated by Bob Jesse.  You can read the statement here: Statement on Open Science and Open Praxis. The statement affirms a continuing commitment to our nonprofit status.

What’s Happening Now

Thanks to your financial support, the Heffter Research Institute continues working with seasoned psychedelic researchers at leading research institutions to demonstrate the medical benefits of psilocybin-assisted therapy in the treatment of various addictions. When coupled with modern brain imaging methods, psilocybin and LSD are proving to be very valuable tools for helping us understand more about how the brain actually works.

Three addiction treatment studies are roughly half-way to completion: Alcohol at NYU, nicotine/smoking at Johns Hopkins, and cocaine at U. Alabama, Birmingham.  A study of long-term meditators at Johns Hopkins is also proceeding, and should yield new insights into similarities and differences between meditation and the experience produced by psilocybin.

Heffter Research Goals for 2018

This year, Heffter is focused on expanding research into important new areas:

  • We are beginning a research path for treating opioid addiction with psilocybin-assisted therapy.  This largely American problem is a major public health concern with life and death consequences, including death from accidental overdose if a sober person relapses.  Groups of researchers at major universities are tackling this problem, and our strategy is to lay the groundwork for Federal research to carry on after we (hopefully) have demonstrated how psilocybin can help.  Studies in the 1950s gave encouraging results using LSD to treat opioid addiction, but those studies were uncontrolled and did not employ the state of the art approaches in use for clinical studies today.  We are excited by the possibility that modern well-designed clinical studies may demonstrate statistically significant results that will give hope to those who are dependent on opioids.
  • We are exploring the best way to help patients with newly diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease deal with the emotional trauma of facing a life of diminishing mental capacity and human relationships.  We do not believe that psilocybin has the ability either to cure or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, but do think that psilocybin-therapy may lead to enhanced emotional strength for Alzheimer’s caregivers.
  • We are prioritizing research on unstudied and serious conditions that could be helped by psilocybin treatment, such as anorexia.  Anorexia is the most lethal of all psychiatric illnesses, and largely strikes young women, but there is no known cure.  Anecdotal reports from former anorexia patients have indicated that psychedelics helped them overcome their eating disorder.  It is time to determine whether a well-designed clinical trial of psilocybin-assisted therapy may lead to improvement, or may even be a cure!

In each of the above examples, as you can see, we are focusing our attention on serious conditions for which there are currently no reliably successful treatments or cures.  As a nonprofit Institute with limited resources, we have always tried to focus on unmet medical needs where, if successful, our research would have a big impact.  That has been our philosophy from our beginning in 1993.
We hope you will continue by our side on this journey as we support proof-of-concept studies and gather the evidence base for therapeutic treatments that, pending FDA approval, will be available to patients in need.  Donations to psychedelic research can be made at

News To Share
  • New LSD Research May Help Explain the Brain Chemistry of Depression and Schizophrenia.This study by Heffter board member Franz Vollenweider on the social effects of LSD continues to get a lot of media attention. “The study—not for the first time—shows how LSD can create “temporary alterations in self-experience” that make it hard for us to distinguish ourselves from others…”

  • The Meaning-Enhancing Properties of Psychedelics and Their Mediator Role in Psychedelic Therapy, Spirituality, and Creativity. A review of psychedelic research suggests that one of the most powerful effects of these substances may be to amplify our perception of meaning.

  • A Writer’s Trip. Michael Pollan discusses his career and new book on psychedelics.

  • Unifying Theories of Psychedelic Drug Effects. Cognitive scientist Link R. Swanson surveys 125 years of psychedelic science to uncover common themes that could help us understand the perceptual, emotional, cognitive, and therapeutic effects of these unique substances.
Thank You To All Our Supporters!

The founding purpose of the Heffter Research Institute in 1993 was to ensure that researchers could pursue important scientific work on psychedelics and their potential uses in basic research and clinical treatment.  With your support and donations we are proud to note that 2018 marks twenty-five years of progress toward our goals!

Thank you for supporting Heffter this year as we continue to promote psychedelic research. For additional information or to share your thoughts, please email us at

[email protected]


Dave Nichols, Ph.D. President
George Greer, M.D. Medical Director