Historical Achievement- First Psychedelic Research at Harvard since 1966!

On Saturday, February 23, 2008, after more than a decade of hard work, Dr. John Halpern conducted the first experimental session in his study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in twelve subjects with treatment-resistant anxiety associated with advanced-stage cancer (or PDF). Dr. Halpern is also conducting a major five-year NIDA-funded study into the neurocognitive risks of heavy use of Ecstasy, enhancing his ability to balance the risks and benefits of MDMA. This historic start of the MDMA/cancer anxiety study would not have been possible without the contributions of many people, including his co-investigators, the members of Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) at both the Lahey Clinic Medical Center and McLean Hospital, both institutions’ administrators and staff, and federal regulatory officials at FDA and even DEA. The study’s $250,000 budget  is funded by Mr. Peter Lewis through a direct grant to McLean Hospital. MAPS assisted Dr. Halpern in the protocol design and approval process.


This experimental session was the first time in 42 years that a psychedelic was administered to a research subject at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Walter Pahnke, who conducted the classic Good Friday experiment in 1962, reported on the conclusion of his psilocybin research at Harvard in an unpublished paper written in 1966 (PDF).  


The renaissance in psychedelic research has begun. It is now time to prove what we have been claiming for decades, that psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy can be beneficial to some patients in carefully controlled clinical settings. The promising results from MAPS’  US MDMA/PTSD research, and the start of Dr. Halpern’s MDMA/cancer anxiety study, suggest that the eventual approval of psychedelic psychotherapy  is becoming more than a dream.


All the best,



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