Crowdfunding controlled experiments with long-neglected, promising psychedelics

The War on Drugs hasn't just destroyed cities and families by imprisoning millions while enriching organized crime syndicates: it's also denied millions more access to promising therapies for crippling psychological and physiological ailments.

As former UK drugs czar David Nutt documented in his landmark book Drugs Without the Hot Air, the early years of psychedelics were a bonanza for psychological research, with paper after paper showing replicable beneficial effects from their use in a variety of contexts. That research — and those therapies — were buried for a half-century after the War on Drugs was declared, and they're only now starting to come back to light.

A nonprofit called Fundamental has just launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise the capital for controlled, rigorous trials — including one by Nutt himself, trying to sort out the real effects of LSD microdosing. You can choose the therapies and experiments you'll fund.

Another beneficiary of the crowdfunded cash will be Rick Doblin, executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. Over the last three decades, MAPS has raised some $40 million for research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics. But it's not enough—phase three of Doblin's study into using MDMA to treat PTSD will set the group back $25 million ($10 million of which they've pulled in from two overachieving donors). And they're not expecting much help from the government—though they did once get a $2.1 million grant from the state of Colorado to study PTSD with marijuana.

This isn't MAPS's first tango with crowdfunding, either. It has used Indiegogo to fund a psychedelic harm reduction program at Burning Man, and again for a study that tested MDMA on traumatized veterans. But those campaigns were asking for total commitments of tens of thousands of dollars, not millions.

With its cut of this new, larger round of crowdfunding, MAPS plans to bring sufferers into a clinic for three sessions of supervised dosing, after which the patient stays for the night. This is combined with 12 hour-and-a-half-long psychotherapy sessions. In a similar study published by the group in 2013, researchers found that doses of MDMA helped participants improve their PTSD symptoms long-term.

Scientists Want You to Give Them Money to Study Psychedelics [Matt Simon/Wired]