The Heffter Research Institute: past and hopeful future

J Psychoactive Drugs. Jan-Mar 2014;46(1):20-6. doi: 10.1080/02791072.2014.873688.


This essay describes the founding of the Heffter Research Institute in 1993 and its development up to the present. The Institute is the only scientific research organization dedicated to scientific research into the medical value of psychedelics, and it has particularly focused on the use of psilocybin. The first clinical treatment study was of the value of psilocybin in obsessive-compulsive disorder. Next was a UCLA study of psilocybin to treat end-of-life distress in end-stage cancer patients. While that study was ongoing, a trial was started at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) to study the efficacy of psilocybin in treating anxiety and depression resulting from a cancer diagnosis. Following the successful completion of the UCLA project, a larger study was started at New York University, which is near completion. A pilot study of the value of psilocybin in treating alcoholism at the University of New Mexico also is nearing completion, with a larger two-site study being planned. Other studies underway involve the use of psilocybin in a smoking cessation program and a study of the effects of psilocybin in long-term meditators, both at JHU. The institute is now planning for a Phase 3 clinical trial of psilocybin to treat distress in end-stage cancer patients.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Academies and Institutes* / history
  • Academies and Institutes* / trends
  • Animals
  • Biomedical Research* / history
  • Biomedical Research* / trends
  • Forecasting
  • Hallucinogens / adverse effects
  • Hallucinogens / therapeutic use*
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • New Mexico


  • Hallucinogens