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New Dell Medical School center studying use of psychedelics for mental health

Dell Medical Center has created a new center dedicated to treating patients with psychedelics. (Pixabay)

Amid a psychedelic resurgence in Austin and esteemed medical studies worldwide, the University of Texas at Austin's Dell Medical School has opened a Center for Psychedelic Research and Therapy to combat severe mental health conditions.

It's the first of its kind in Texas and will seek to help those with depression, anxiety and PTSD, especially those who haven't benefitted from more traditional treatments.

They'll implement an assortment of drugs, including ibogaine, a Central African root bark that has been used to treat opiod drug addiction; ayahuasca, a psychoactive brew originally used among indigenous people in the Amazon; psychedelic mushrooms (psilocybin); and MDMA (often called ecstasy or Molly).

Psychedelics have earned a hippy-dippy reputation since their use by members of counterculture movements and young people since the 1960s. Though each of these has been used recreationally or in religious ceremonies, they're also behind a growing bed of research—institutions like Johns Hopkins University, the University of California at Berkeley, and the Icahn School of Medicine have opened centers similar to Dell's newest research hub.

(Dell Medical School)

Charles B. Nemeroff, the professor and chair of Dell Med's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and co-lead of the center, said these studies have been promising.

“This research will bring further scientific rigor and expertise to study psychedelic therapy,” Nemeroff said. “Recent studies have demonstrated considerable promise for these drugs when incorporated with clinical support, and this work has the potential to transform how we treat conditions like depression and PTSD, and to identify synergies between these and other well-established therapies to achieve long-term benefits for those seeking treatment.”

The center's first patients will be military veterans living with post-traumatic stress disorder as well as those with long-lasting grief disorder or depression and those who have experienced childhood trauma. Two veteran programs for those looking to treat their PTSD with psychedelics, The Mission Within and the Heroic Hearts Project, will be the center's first partners.

Instead of taking them daily like traditional medicines, the drugs will be given a few times in a psychotherapy session with a mental health provider. According to Greg Fonzo, an assistant professor in Dell Med’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, the use of psychedelics could help patients' brains to be more adaptable.

“A key ingredient in how psychedelic therapies promote mental health may be their ability to enhance neural plasticity, the process that allows the brain to adapt to new experiences – which when combined with brain modulation therapies may promote maximum benefit,” Fonzo said. “The potential implications are far-reaching for people with these conditions and their families, and also for the future of mental health treatment and care.”

The drugs aren't yet approved by the FDA, but there's been recent headway: six states have decriminalized psychedelic mushrooms, while Oregon has legalized them for medical use. In Texas, House Bill 1802 was adopted in the latest legislative session to allow a study on using alternative therapies for veterans with PTSD.


A big announcement from Austonia

Howdy, and happy holidays.

I have some big news for you.

Austonia is now part of 6AM City, a fast-growing network of hyper-local newsletters across the country.

I’m proud to be telling you this, because 6AM City’s mission is very much like Austonia’s — a daily morning update on events, things-to-do and news, with an underlying mission of community building in the cities they serve.

If you’re not already subscribed, 6AM City’s Austin newsletter is called ATXtoday. One of its city editors is Laura Figi, who you’ll remember for her previous great work on Austonia’s newsletter.

I’ve been reading ATXtoday every day since it launched last year.

Starting this week, you’ll receive ATXtoday every morning and I’m confident it will become part of your daily wake up routine. Be sure to add to your contact list (how to do that here).

Meantime let me thank you for your readership and support of Austonia, and convey my wishes for a great holiday season for you and those close to you.

Thank you,

Mark Dewey

Austonia CEO

Tito's releases (not so?) ugly sweater line for the holidays, profits to charity

Tito's Handmade Vodka

Show your love for Tito's and for the community this year with a wide selection of not that ugly, uglyish, ugly, uglier, and ugliest holiday sweaters.

There's lots choose from, and plenty of accessories like scarves and socks, plus gear for your dog, too.

All of the items can be purchased online or at the Love, Tito’s Retail Store in Austin, TX. 100% of all net proceeds from online or in-store purchases go to one of the nonprofits we’ve teamed up with.

Click here to see the entire collection in the Tito's store.