This Ivy League university is going all in on psychedelics research

Harvard psychedelics study

People are talking about psychedelics. Not just the psychonauts, but therapists and religious leaders have taken interest in the possibilities of compounds like psilocybin and LSD. Academia has noticed, too.

Harvard recently announced its intent to create a Study of Psychedelics in Society & Culture in the Harvard Gazette. The interdisciplinary study is made possible by a gift from the Gracias Family Foundation. It will include efforts from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard Law School, and Harvard Divinity School.

“This is a visionary gift, in that it is the first to take the so-called psychedelic renaissance beyond medicine by recognizing the importance of the humanities in exploring the impact and potential of these remarkable substances,” Harvard creative writing professor Michael Pollan shared with the Gazette.

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The $16 million gift from the Gracias Family Foundation. The private philanthropic organization donates to expand the art, culture, and education in the world. Gracias Family Foundation has interest in the therapeutic value of psychedelics, and hopes this study will investigate their value and impact from new angles. The study will hone in on how psychedelics can help people live healthy, thriving lives.

To date, psychedelics researchers have taken a pharmacological approach to understanding these compounds. Instead, this  study will consider ethics, law, policy, religion and spirituality, art and literature, and the nature of consciousness.

An element of human discourse will permeate the study. Debates and conversations across disciplines will be fostered at public-facing events, seminars, and a culminating conference. Some will take place at the Mahindra Humanities Center.

“This initiative will give us the space to explore and enrich public dialogue around psychedelics, including their potentials, as well as ethical and social implications,” said Bruno Carvalho, interim director of the Mahindra Humanities Center.

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Harvard is not the first Ivy to dive into psychedelics. The Yale Psychiatry Department is actively researching and hypothesizing about the value of these compounds. However, the Study of Psychedelics in Society & Culture may be the first to take a sociological approach to understanding how psychedelics may impact human life.

Cara Wietstock is Senior Content Producer of and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.