This week’s Psychedelic news roundup details the University of Ottawa’s new psychedelic master’s program. Other news includes two fresh psychedelic studies, changes to New Jersey’s latest psychedelic medicine bill, and more.

University of Ottawa Launches Groundbreaking Master’s Program in Psychedelics and Consciousness

University of Ottawa campus

The Debrief reports on a new master’s program at the University of Ottawa. Starting this September, the university will introduce a new Master’s Degree in Psychedelics and Consciousness Studies. This distinctive one-year program promises to explore the varied therapeutic, spiritual, and cultural uses of psychedelics throughout human history.

Dr. Monnica Williams, co-director of the program and Full Professor at the School of Psychology highlighted the program’s commitment to advancing academic research and enhancing practical training. This initiative comes at a crucial time as the medical and therapeutic potentials of psychedelics gain increasing recognition.

Key Features of the Program:
  • Advanced Research Opportunities: Students are encouraged to engage in groundbreaking research in consciousness and comparative mysticism.
  • Culturally Sensitive Therapeutic Training: The program prepares students to offer culturally informed psychedelic-assisted therapies.
  • Professional and Spiritual Care Training: Designed for a diverse professional audience, including healthcare providers, spiritual caregivers, and traditional healers.

The University of Ottawa’s bold move to introduce this program reflects a significant shift towards embracing the complex role of psychedelics in contemporary therapy and spiritual practices, setting a precedent that could inspire similar academic programs globally.(1)

New Jersey’s Psilocybin Bill Narrows Focus to Therapeutic Use

New Jersey's Psilocybin Bill

Marijuana Moment reports on a significant legislative shift in the Garden State. A New Jersey Senate panel has approved an amended psilocybin bill, S.2283, which removes provisions for broad legalization in favor of strictly therapeutic applications. Senate President Nick Scutari proposed the original bill, which included measures allowing adults to possess and use psilocybin freely. Still, the revised version focuses on creating a regulated program for therapeutic access.

Key Features of the Program:
  • Licensing and Regulation: The bill tasks the Department of Health with overseeing the manufacture, testing, transport, and sale of psilocybin and introduces five types of licenses to cover the entire supply chain.
  • Medical Oversight: Access to psilocybin therapy would require a referral from a licensed healthcare professional, emphasizing a medical framework rather than personal use.
  • Social Equity Program: Aim to assist low-income individuals in affording psychedelic therapy, addressing access and affordability.
  • Therapeutic Emphasis: Shifts language from “clients” to “patients” and from “integrated session” to “integrated therapy session,” reflecting a medicalized approach.

Critics argue this approach might limit broader access and benefit for-profit entities, comparing it unfavorably with New Jersey’s troubled medical marijuana program, which they claim has failed to adequately serve patients. Advocates like Chris Goldstein from NORML (a drug reform advocacy group) and Kristen Goedde from Trichome Analytical have expressed concerns that the amendments could repeat past mistakes by overly restricting access and not allowing personal cultivation.

Despite these concerns, the bill represents a cautious but progressive approach to psilocybin, aligning with a growing recognition of its therapeutic potential. This is supported by recent polls indicating that a majority of New Jersey residents favor legalizing psilocybin for medical use under a doctor’s supervision.

As the bill progresses, it will require further debate and refinement to balance regulatory oversight with broad accessibility, ensuring that therapeutic potential is not overshadowed by commercial interests.(2)

Psychedelics and Long-COVID: A Promising Case Study

Psychedelics and Long-COVID

As detailed by PsyPost, a recent publication in Clinical Case Reports examines the case of a 41-year-old woman who utilized psilocybin and MDMA to combat severe symptoms of Long-COVID. This intriguing study suggests that psychedelics may offer relief from the persistent psychological and cognitive impairments that many Long-COVID sufferers experience.

Long-COVID refers to the continuation of symptoms like fatigue, cognitive issues, and depression long after recovery from the initial COVID-19 infection. Traditional treatments often fall short, prompting some patients to explore alternative therapies. The patient in this study, after experiencing minimal benefits from conventional treatments and long wait times for specialized care, turned to psychedelics under professional guidance.

The therapeutic journey began with psilocybin mushrooms and was later combined with MDMA. The results were promising:

  • The first psilocybin session yielded a temporary 20% symptom improvement.
  • A subsequent session combining MDMA with a higher dose of psilocybin resulted in significant, lasting symptom relief, allowing the patient to resume her PhD studies and work.
  • After a brief relapse triggered by a flu-like illness, another psilocybin session led to a complete remission of symptoms.

This case study highlights the potential of psychedelics to enhance emotional processing and brain connectivity, which could be crucial for treating long-term COVID-19. However, the nature of case studies means the results are not broadly generalizable. They lack controls and randomization essential for establishing causality, and outcomes can be influenced by placebo effects or subjective reporting.

Despite these limitations, the detailed account of this patient’s experience sheds light on an innovative approach to managing Long-COVID. It underscores the necessity for further research into the safety and efficacy of psychedelics for treating chronic conditions.(3)

Exploring Psilocybin’s Impact on Brain Connectivity and Consciousness

Psilocybin's Impact on Brain Connectivity

In a pivotal study published in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, researchers Sepehr Mortaheb, Larry D. Fort, and their team from the University of Liège have significantly advanced our understanding of how psilocybin affects human brain function and consciousness. This study utilized a dual approach that combined real-time brain imaging from an MRI with subjective experience reporting (the individual’s report of their psychedelic experience) to explore the effects of psilocybin on dynamic cerebral connectivity (how different regions of the brain connect and interact) and the corresponding psychedelic experiences.

Key data from the study include:
  • Overall Increase in Connectivity: Psilocybin significantly enhanced global brain connectivity.
  • Hyperconnected Network State: Characterized by low amplitude in blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) signals, indicating heightened arousal and potential for extensive mental associations. (BOLD signals are an fMRI method that looks at activity in brain regions.)
  • Link to Subjective Experiences: Strong correlations between hyperconnectivity and feelings of oceanic boundlessness (feeling of unity with the universe and a reduction in the sense of self) and visionary restructuralization (altered perception such as hallucinations or synesthesia).
  • Potential Therapeutic Applications: Insights from the study suggest psilocybin could help treat conditions like depression and PTSD by facilitating neuroplasticity and cognitive flexibility.

Participants were given psilocybin and monitored under an MRI during the drug’s peak effects, with subjective experiences recorded six hours post-intake via the 5-Dimensional Altered States of Consciousness Rating Scale. The study uncovered a notable increase in overall brain connectivity, with a specific pattern of hyperconnectivity associated with heightened cortical arousal. This hyperconnected state is believed to enable the formation of new mental associations, shedding light on the expanded perception often reported during psychedelic experiences.

Further analyses established a robust link between these connectivity patterns and experiences of oceanic boundlessness—characterized by feelings of unity with creation and boundary dissolution—and visionary restructuralization, which involves profound perceptual and cognitive alterations. These experiences correlate with increased connectivity in brain regions that facilitate broadened awareness and altered perception.

The findings demonstrate that psilocybin induces a flexible connectivity state in the brain, correlates with transformative experiences, and has potential therapeutic applications. The study suggests that psychedelics like psilocybin may be instrumental in developing new treatments for psychiatric disorders by disrupting entrenched neural patterns associated with these conditions.(4)

This material is not intended as a replacement or substitute for any legal or medical advice. Always consult a medical professional about your health needs. Psychedelics are widely illegal in the United States, and readers should always be informed about local, state, and federal regulations regarding psychedelics or other drugs.

  1. Plain, C. (2024, June 6). First-Of-Its-Kind Master’s Degree in Psychedelics and Consciousness Will Analyze Link Between Science and Spirituality. The Debrief. 
  2. Adlin, B. (2024, June 6). New Jersey Panel Approves Amended Psilocybin Bill, Removing Broad Legalization To Focus On Therapeutic Program. Marijuana Moment. 
  3. Dolan, E. W. (2024, May 29). Long-COVID defeated by psychedelics? Case study details unusual recovery. PsyPost – Psychology News. 
  4. Sepehr Mortaheb, Fort, L. D., Mason, N. L., Mallaroni, P., Ramaekers, J. G., & Demertzi, A. (2024). Dynamic Functional Hyperconnectivity after Psilocybin Intake is Primarily Associated with Oceanic Boundlessness. Biological Psychiatry. Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging.