CU Denver Launches Psychedelic Research Center in Downtown Denver
Jim Grigsby, PhD, the CU Denver Center for Psychedelic Research chief science officer and executive director, and a professor of psychology.

CU Denver Launches Psychedelic Research Center in Downtown Denver

June 24, 2024

Studies will focus on mental and physical health applications as well as the societal and economic impact of Colorado’s Magic Mushrooms Law.

Today marks the official launch of the CU Denver Center for Psychedelic Research at the University of Colorado Denver. The center is dedicated to improving the quality of life of people by studying the possible benefits psychedelic drugs may have in treating a range of mental, emotional, neurologic, and other health conditions, as well as their potential use for late-stage cancer, and chronic, debilitating diseases.

“There is so much potential to find new ways we can help people,” said Jim Grigsby, PhD, the center’s chief science officer and executive director, and a professor of psychology at CU Denver. “We already have several small studies in planning, and a national study underway. We are in talks with several possible collaborators in Colorado, and beyond, because there appears to be so much promise in this area of research now that we as a nation are jumping into the study of psychedelics again.”

Researchers began exploring the use of classic hallucinogens, or psychedelics, for their therapeutic potential more than 70 years ago. But in the 1970s, a war on illicit drug use resulted in the banning of research in this area. The winds are changing. The federal government is once again providing funding for research, and several jurisdictions have enacted, or are considering, legislation decriminalizing psychedelic drugs. Colorado voters passed Proposition 122 in 2022, which decriminalized certain plant and fungal-based psychedelic drugs, and required the state to establish protocols for the use of such drugs in controlled clinical settings to adults over 21. The regulations go into effect this year.

In addition to being the director of the new center, Grigsby is a co-principal investigator of one of the nation’s largest studies on the therapeutic use of psilocybin among patients facing the end of life.

“Preliminary research here, and elsewhere, suggests that psychedelics may induce or enhance neural plasticity and neurogenesis in certain parts of the brain,” Grigsby said. “They are thought to have powerful anti-inflammatory effects, which might make them effective as therapies for neurological conditions such as stroke or certain neurodegenerative diseases. We have a lot of work to do, but there is so much potential that it’s an exciting time.”

Beyond Science Research

The new center, on CU Denver’s downtown campus, will also study the impact of the use of these drugs on the economy and society. Research in these areas will include study of how the new state law is applied, ethical and public health implications, and equitable structures to develop insurance coverage and payment policies for these novel treatments.

Center personnel will develop a structured educational curriculum for training those who want to provide psychedelics in clinical settings, and for those wanting a state credential to do this kind of work under Proposition 122. Applications for approval of some psychedelics and related drugs are already being submitted or considered by the Food and Drug Administration for use in therapies for conditions such as PTSD and depression. In collaboration with scientists on the CU Anschutz and Boulder campuses, and beyond, the center intends to study the effectiveness and therapeutic mechanisms of these drugs as treatments for a range of conditions.

Research without dissemination of the findings is ineffectual, so the Center will also work with policy makers, local and state agencies, and other interested stakeholders to ensure that research findings inform future public policy.

The center is holistic and transdisciplinary in nature, and is seeking local, regional, and national collaborators with a wide range of expertise to advance its work. These will include researchers in psychology and psychiatry, neurology, medicine, psychoneuroimmunology, behavioral neuroendocrinology, the social sciences, and public policy.

“At the heart of our work is creative and careful science that may help improve quality of life for many people, including individuals in marginalized and traditionally underserved groups,” Grigsby said.

About University of Colorado Denver

Millions of moments start at CU Denver, a place where innovation, research, and learning meet in the heart of a global city. We’re the state’s premier public urban research university with more than 100 in-demand, top ranked bachelors, master’s, and doctoral degree programs. We partner with diverse learners—at any stage of their life and career—for transformative educational experiences. Across seven schools and colleges, our leading faculty inspires and works alongside students to solve complex challenges and produce impactful creative work. As part of the state’s largest university system, CU Denver is a major contributor to the Colorado economy, with 2,000 employees and an annual economic impact of $800 million. To learn more about how CU Denver helps learners meet their moment, click here.

Media Contact

CU Denver, Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala