UW-Madison is starting a center to expand its research on psychedelic drugs such as psilocybin and MDMA, which have shown promise in treating conditions such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Transdisciplinary Center for Research in Psychoactive Substances, to be housed within the School of Pharmacy, comes after a groundbreaking ceremony in Fitchburg this month for the Usona Institute, a nonprofit researching psychedelic drugs that was started by the CEO of Promega Corp.

In addition, UW’s pharmacy school is starting the country’s first pharmacy master’s program in the field this fall.

The new research center at UW will expand the scope and reach of psychedelic research that started on campus in 2014, a university statement said. Four clinical trials are currently underway to prepare for submitting applications for new drugs to the Food and Drug Administration. They involve MDMA in treating PTSD, and psilocybin as treatment for major depression and opioid addiction.

“Psychoactive agents are the new frontier for potential new therapies and medications,” said Paul Hutson, a UW pharmacy professor and center director, adding he thinks FDA approval of psilocybin and MDMA will come within five years.

The center aims to involve researchers from other parts of campus to explore how the drugs affect the brain and behavior, investigate the conscious experience in psychiatric therapies, study how perceptions and use of psychoactive drugs have been shaped by culture and politics, and consider policies related to the compounds.

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