For most of us, psychedelic drugs form the images of the 1960's. Hippies run on LSD or magic mushrooms. But powerful, mind-altering substances are now being studied by scientists within some of the nation's leading research centers. They are already being used to treat depression, anxiety and addiction.
The first results are amazing, as are the experiences of volunteers of studies that go on for a six-hour, sometimes terrifying, but often life-changing psychedelic journey deep on their own. mind.
Carine McLaughlin: (LAUGH) People ask me, "Do you want to do it again?" I say, "Hell no. I don't want to do that again."
Anderson Cooper: Is that really bad?
Carine McLaughlin: Oh, this is awful. The whole time, except for the very beginning and the very beginning, I was crying.
Carine McLaughlin talks about the hallucinogenic experience she has here at Johns Hopkins University, after giving a large dose of psilocybin, the psychedelic agent in magic mushrooms, as part of an ongoing clinical trial.
Roland Griffiths: We told people that they were san can vary from very sitive to transcendent and lovely to literally hell experience.
Anderson Cooper: Hell realm?
Roland Griffiths: It's like scary an experience you've ever had in your life.
That's scientist Roland Griffiths. For nearly two decades now, he and his colleague Matthew Johnson have given what they call "hero doses" of psilocybin to more than 350 volunteers, many battling addiction, depression and anxiety.
Anderson Cooper: Can you tell who's going to have a bad experience, who's going to get a chronic experience?
Roland Griffiths: Our ability to predict almost nothing.
Anderson Cooper: Really?
Matthew Johnson: About a third will – our– at a high dose say they have something like this, what a bad trip would call. But most people will actually say that is the key to the experience.
Carine McLaughlin has been a smoker for 46 years and says she tried all who left before giving the psilocybin to Johns Hopkins last year. Psilocybin itself is not addictive.
Anderson Cooper: Do you remember what, like, specifically what you saw or?
Carine McLaughlin: Yes. The ceiling of this room is cloudy, like, heavy rain clouds. And they are gradually decreasing. And I thought of yelling at the clouds.
That was more than a year ago; he says he hasn't smoked since. The study he took part in is still ongoing, but in an earlier, small study of 15 long-term smokers, 80% quit six months after taking psilocybin. That's double the rate of any over-the-counter smoking cessation product.
Roland Griffiths: They came to a profound change of world view. And essentially, a shift in self-awareness that I think –
Anderson Cooper: They – do they see their lives differently?
Roland Griffiths: Their view of the world is changing and – and is hardly acknowledged in its own narrative. People can use the word "ego." And it creates a sense of freedom.
And not just for smokers.
Jon Kostakopoulos: Beer is common, soaps, common vodka sodas, tequila sodas, scotch and sodas.
Jon Kostakopoulos drank a flaming 20 cocktails a night and warned that he was slowly killing himself when he decided to enroll in another psilocybin trial at New York University. During a psilocybin session, he was flooded with strong emotions and images from his past.
Jon Kostakopoulos: Stuff is coming out that I haven't thought about since.
Anderson Cooper: So don't the old memories you still have come back to you?
Jon Kostakopoulos: I felt, you know, a lot of embarrassment and shame throughout one of the sessions about my drinking and how bad I felt my parents endured it all.
She took psilocybin in 2016. She says she has not been drinking since.
Anderson Cooper: Do you have a day where you wake up and you like, man, I wish I had some vodka now or beer?
Jon Kostakopoulos: Never.
Anderson Cooper: Not at all?
Jon Kostakopoulos: Not all, which is the worst thing because that's my favorite thing to do.
The use of psychedelic drugs in therapy is not new. Hundreds of scientific studies conducted at a similar compound – LSD – in the 1950's and 60's have been tested on more than 40,000 people, some of them controlled therapeutic settings like these also have abuses.The US military and CIA are experimenting with LSD ku sometimes without knowledge of patients.
Fearing widespread drug use and the spread of the counterculture movement, not to mention Harvard professor Timothy Leary urging people to turn, tune in and drop out, led to  In 1970, President Richard Nixon signed the controlled substance and virtually all US scientific research into the effects of psychedelics on humans ceased. It was not until 2000 that scientist Roland Griffiths won FDA approval to study psilocybin.
Roland Griffiths: This whole area of research has been in deep freeze for 25 or 30 years. And so as a scientist, I sometimes felt like Rip Van Winkle.
Anderson Cooper: And once you see the results …
Roland Griffiths: Yeah. The red light started flashing. It is very interesting. It is unprecedented and the ability of the human organism to change. It's just amazing.
Anderson Cooper: It looks like you endorse it for everyone.
Roland Griffiths: Yes, we're pretty clear. We are very aware of the risks, and do not recommend that people go out and do it.
Griffiths and Johnson refer to people with psychotic disorders or close relatives who have schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Study volunteers at Johns Hopkins will be given weeks of intensive counseling before and after six hours of psilocybin experience; psilocybin is administered in a carefully controlled setting one to three times. To date, they say there has never been a serious adverse outcome.