Arizona is poised to become a major hub for psychedelic therapy research, thanks to a new bill introduced in the state’s 2023-2024 budget bill in May. The provision will provide $5 million in funding for studies on the medical benefits of psilocybin and other psychedelic substances at Arizona universities and research centers.
The funding bill comes amid growing interest in psychedelic-assisted therapy as a treatment for mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, PTSD and addiction. Research has shown psilocybin, the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms,” can provide rapid and lasting relief for these conditions when administered in a controlled, therapeutic setting.
While the medical potential of psilocybin is still being explored, recent studies have demonstrated promising results. Research trials conducted at reputable institutions, including Johns Hopkins University and Imperial College London, have shown that carefully guided psilocybin-assisted therapy can promote neural plasticity, enhance emotional processing, and induce mystical or profound experiences that can have long-lasting positive effects on mental well-being.
A bipartisan group of legislators, including Republicans Rep. Kevin Payne and Sen. T.J. Shope and Democrats Rep. Jennifer Longdon and Rep. Stacey Travers, had previously collaborated on drafting House Bill 2486 earlier this year. That legislation sought to provide $30 million in funding for psilocybin research, but ultimately failed to advance after not receiving a committee hearing. The legislators then worked to integrate provisions supporting psilocybin research into the state budget bill, resulting in the $5 million in funding that was approved.
Arizona is already home to significant psychedelic research efforts. Brain Epigenetic and Altered States Research Lab at Arizona State University plans to conduct studies on psilocybin-assisted therapy for PTSD in veterans and opioid use disorder.
“This funding will be a huge boost to our work,” says Candace Lewis, director of the lab. “It costs millions to conduct the type of gold-standard trials needed to prove efficacy and safety. This puts those kinds of studies within reach.”
Lewis says current research trials conducted with synthetic psilocybin are critical to move psychedelic therapy toward FDA approval as a legal medication. The new funding will help Arizona researchers collect the evidence needed to make that a reality.
Rudy Montijo, COO of Phoenix-based psychedelic medicine clinic Daytryp Health and Wellness, also praised the bill’s potential to accelerate psychedelic drug development in Arizona. Right now, the clinic works with ketamine therapy, but would implement psilocybin if legalized.
“There’s tremendous interest from patients in accessing psilocybin therapy,” Montijo says. “But the research lags behind the demand. This funding will help us conduct the trials needed to finally make psilocybin medicine a reality.”
Montijo says that the bill’s passage signals that Arizona policymakers recognize the promise of psychedelic therapy. States like Oregon and Colorado have already passed ballot measures to decriminalize psilocybin, though the substance still remains illegal under federal law.
“This shows that Arizona is open for psychedelic business,” Montijo says. “We expect to see more capital and talent flowing into the state as a result.”
Arizona’s psychedelic research funding could prompt other states to take similar legislative action. Along with expanding access to an innovative mental health treatment, the bill sponsors also hope the research will bring economic opportunities to the state.
With the passage of this new research funding, the stage is set for an exciting new chapter in mental health science. Researchers, scientists, and mental health professionals are optimistic that this legislation will unlock the therapeutic potential of psilocybin mushrooms, providing a much-needed ray of hope for individuals struggling with mental health disorders worldwide.