The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is funding a University of North Carolina School of Medicine study on potentially using psychedelics such as ketamine and psilocybin for mental health medications.
The research is led by Dr. Bryan L. Roth, the Michael Hooker Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology, who pointed out that drugs “like ketamine and potentially psilocybin have rapid antidepressant actions” but their clinical use is limited due to their “hallucinogenic, addictive, and disorienting side effects.”
“Depression, anxiety, and substance abuse affect large segments of the population. Creating safe, rapidly acting and more effective medications would revolutionize the treatment of these disorders thereby diminishing death and disability. … Our team has developed innovative methods and technologies to overcome these limitations with the goal of creating better medications to treat these neuropsychiatric conditions.” – Roth in a statement
The four-year agreement between DARPA and the UNC School of Medicine is worth $26.9 million and features researchers from Stanford University, Icahn School of Medicine, the University of California-San Francisco, and Duke University.
Last September, psilocybin researcher Roland Griffiths announced the founding of the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins University. The center is funded by private donations of at least $17 million.
Griffiths said the center’s researchers would explore the drug as a potential treatment for alcoholism, nicotine dependence, post-traumatic stress disorder, anorexia, Alzheimer’s, and Lyme disease.
“Rapidly acting drugs with antidepressant, anti-anxiety, and anti-addictive potential devoid of disabling side effects do not exist, not even as experimental compounds for use in animals,” Roth said. “Creating such compounds would change the way we treat millions of people around the world suffering from these serious and life-threatening conditions.”