LSD Is Back On Campus, But This Time It's Approved

“Psychedemia” is a mix of “psychedelic” and “academia”—meaning the integration of psychedelics into academia—and is a term coined by LSD research pioneer Humphry Osmond in 1957. 

It has been used since 2012 as the title for a grassroots collaborative psychedelics conference organized to “foster novel contributions to this burgeoning field,” and to “consider data from new research with an open mind.” 

The three-day psychedemia conference in 2012 was organized by the University of Pennsylvania, the Penn Medicine Neuroscience Center, the Perelman School of Medicine, the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, the School of Arts and Sciences Student Government, and several other departments was a grand gesture ten years ago to not only raise the awareness of psychedelics but give the whole industry a shot in the arm. 

It represented a sort of full-circle path of academia for psychedelics after academia abandoned psychedelics when Harvard University psychology professor Timothy Leary derailed the industry in the 60s after doing experiments with psilocybin and LSD that “lacked scientific rigor”

Now academia is reclaiming psychedelics and putting more university brainpower into it than ever before.

The psychedemia conference is still going on, with the next one scheduled in August 2022, as a partnership with the newly founded Center for Psychedelic Drug Research and Education at Ohio State University. It will be presented on the campus.

But academia-inspired conferences and the founding of university-related psychedelics studies centers are just the tip of the iceberg in the huge rush by academia to embrace and better understand psychedelics. 

Masters Degrees

Universities are creating master’s degree level psychedelics classes, attracting world-class scientists to help find novel psychedelics therapeutics, and pushing to create a broader and deeper intellectual base for psychedelics study and research that is just gaining traction.

Here’s a quick look at five developments of note among the reported 100-plus U.S. universities researching psychedelics: 

  1. The Stanford University School of Medicine began an introduction to psychedelics as a speaker series in 2018 and is now an official course at the school, “PSYC 215: Introduction to Psychedelic Medicine.”
  2. In January 2021, the Center for Psychedelic Psychotherapy and Trauma Research was launched at Mount Sinai Health System with the James J. Peters Department of Veterans Affairs Medical center, to examine the therapeutic potential of psychedelic compounds for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other trauma-related symptoms. Mount Sinai Health System is New York City’s largest academic medical system, made up of eight hospitals, a medical school, and a network of ambulatory practices throughout the greater New York region.
  3. In July, 2021, Tryp Therapeutics (OTC: TRYPF) partnered with the University of Michigan to work on part of a series of upcoming studies performed with the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center and the Center for Consciousness Science in the Department of Anesthesiology at the University of Michigan. The series is designed to explore the relationship between a psilocybin-induced increase in neurophysiological complexity and indices of pain in a preclinical model for chronic central pain.
  4. In August, 2021, the University of Wisconsin–Madison opened the doors to its Transdisciplinary Center for Research in Psychoactive Substances to support research and educational activities about psychedelic drugs and related compounds. The center also supports the university’s master’s degree program, “Psychoactive Pharmaceutical Investigation.”
  5. In March, 2022, the Yale School of Medicine announced that physician-scientists at three major U.S. medical schools will collaborate to develop a curriculum to train psychiatrists in the practice of psychedelic medicine. The project, a collaboration between Yale School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and New York University Grossman School of Medicine, will be funded by a $1 million grant provided by a group of donors, according to a press release.

Brian Pace, a scholar at Ohio State University who teaches psychedelics studies at the university, and is one of the organizers of the 2022 Psychedemia conference to be held at Ohio State, told Open Foundation, a Netherlands non-profit think tank, that the new-agey, cultish stuff they see around psychedelics now, with tuning your chakras and merging souls or whatever, is their fault. “That’s an abdication of the responsibility to investigate interesting questions and to chase down data: to find out how things work,” Pace said. “So where we are now is a very timid and late re-entry to the subject, more so for education than research. Psychedelic research didn’t end when the universities and governments abandoned it. It continued in the underground. The role of the university courses on psychedelics is to identify and evaluate high-quality information on the topic. We have a lot of catching up to do and I think that should be done with humility.”

Dave Hodes

David Hodes is a business journalist based in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. He has contributed feature articles to several cannabis and psychedelics publications, as well as general business/lifestyle publications, on a variety of topics. Hodes was selected as 2018 Journalist of the Year by Americans for Safe Access. He is a member of the National Press Club, and the deputy booking agent for the National Press Club Headliners Committee.

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