It’s evident that we are in the midsts of a psychedelic medicine revolution, relatively similar to the medicinal cannabis movement during the 1990s. As with any movement, there are giants that paved the way by challenging social and cultural norms while combating Drug War propaganda and policies, with each positive step creating more space for others to follow. Whether in science or politics, pioneers of movements, many of whom remain hidden from the limelight and accolades from most, make change possible. Sometimes major breakthroughs seem decades away, if even possible, and then suddenly, anything and everything seems on the horizon. Will drug policy reformers look back at Oregon Measures 109 and 110 in the same way that we look back at California Proposition 215 legalizing medical cannabis back in 1996? Potentially, but only time will tell.
Before Oregon voters allowed medicinal psilocybin treatment and decriminalized personal drug possession, there were several successful local measures, and decades of important research that made change possible in 2020. I imagine that many, certainly myself, will look back at Johns Hopkins University endowing the Susan Hill Ward Professor in Psychedelics and Consciousness at Johns Hopkins University to Matthew Johnson as one of the foundational milestones of the psychedelics movement, if not in the greater battle to implement more sane and sensible drug policies, based upon science instead of misinformation and hyperbole. For too long, the prison-industrial complex and other special interests have perpetuated harmful propaganda designed to dehumanize and delegitmize people, with dreadful consequences, including a mass incarceration epidemic that remains an international embarrassment.
Last November, Johns Hopkins released the press release, “Psychedelic Treatment with Psilocybin Relieves Major Depression, Study Shows”:
“In a small study of adults with major depression, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers report that two doses of the psychedelic substance psilocybin, given with supportive psychotherapy, produced rapid and large reductions in depressive symptoms, with most participants showing improvement and half of study participants achieving remission through the four-week follow-up.
“A compound found in so-called magic mushrooms, psilocybin produces visual and auditory hallucinations and profound changes in consciousness over a few hours after ingestion. In 2016, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers first reported that treatment with psilocybin under psychologically supported conditions significantly relieved existential anxiety and depression in people with a life-threatening cancer diagnosis.
“Now, the findings from the new study, published Nov. 4 in JAMA Psychiatry, suggest that psilocybin may be effective in the much wider population of patients who suffer from major depression than previously appreciated.”
Professor Johnson tweeted that, “To my knowledge this is the 1st endowed professorship on the planet with psychedelics in the title.” I’m willing to bet that he certainly won’t be the last. Johns Hopkins University is one of the top academic institutions in the world, receiving the most U.S. federal research funds, affiliated with over 35 Nobel Laureates. We will only be seeing more important research originate with Johns Hopkins’ Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research and other universities will certainly follow suit.