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UW–Madison pioneers master’s program in therapeutic use of psychoactive drugs

March 23, 2021 By Lisa Bauer

Rennebohm Hall is home to the School of Pharmacy. Photo: Bryce Richter

In response to a resurgence in research and a need for a highly trained workforce, the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Pharmacy will enroll students in their new MS in Pharmaceutical Sciences: Psychoactive Pharmaceutical Investigation this fall – the only master’s program of its kind in the U.S.

The fully online program will equip graduates to be future leaders in the field of therapeutic development and deployment of psychedelics, entheogens, cannabinoids and other psychoactive substances. These sectors that are expected to grow by approximately 20 percent each year for the next decade, with market values around $100 billion by 2030.

“We look forward to our renowned School of Pharmacy becoming a world leader in the provision of high-quality educational experiences that prepare individuals for engagement in research, therapeutic application, advocacy and regulatory development for the next generation of psychoactive pharmaceuticals,” says School of Pharmacy Dean Steve Swanson.

With a curriculum that connects chemistry and culture, equity and ethnobotany, and phenomenology and pharmacokinetics, the MS in Pharmaceutical Sciences: Psychoactive Pharmaceutical Investigation will deliver robust scientific training alongside critical humanities content. This approach is designed to prepare learners for the complex landscape surrounding development and application of these innovative therapies with the potential to treat anxiety, depression, PTSD and other psychiatric illnesses.

With decades of clinical and research experience in the investigation of novel psychoactive compounds, program instructors span the breadth of the psychedelic research ecosystem from pre-clinical investigation to human trials, through implementation to societal and ecological impacts and beyond.

Cody Wenthur

“The scope of the psychedelic research ‘renaissance’ is rapidly expanding beyond academic research. We see ongoing progress in active healthcare delivery settings, evolving opportunities in governmental, regulatory and legal organizations, and substantial new investments in the pharmaceutical industry,” says Cody Wenthur, director of the Psychoactive Pharmaceutical Investigation program. “This master’s program was designed in collaboration with external partners to ensure that graduates will leave the program with real-world knowledge and in-demand job skills.”

Master’s program graduates will be well positioned to advance their careers in pharmaceutical industry settings and will further benefit from a network of connections across other employment areas, including nonprofit foundations, healthcare systems, legal firms and governmental and public policy agencies.

Students can apply for the fully online Psychoactive Pharmaceutical Investigation program by July 31 for fall enrollment or October 31 for spring enrollment. The 31-credit program can be completed in two years, with a one-year (accelerated) option coming in fall 2022. Scholarships are available, including specific opportunities available to individuals with underrepresented backgrounds for this field.

Students could also earn a 12-credit Capstone Certificate in Psychoactive Pharmaceutical Investigation, designed as a nondegree alternative to the master’s program but which can be applied to the MS degree. Both the capstone certificate and master’s degree are part of UW–Madison’s portfolio of Professional Degrees and Certificates.

Finally, these curricular offerings will also be available to Doctor of Pharmacy students enrolled at UW–Madison, to help prepare critical healthcare professionals for new roles and responsibilities as novel psychoactive pharmaceutical interventions become available.

“With UW–Madison being a top-10 research institution and the School of Pharmacy also ranked in the top 10, we are proud to introduce this rigorous program offering the first graduate level, degree-based training program for the study and applications of psychedelics,” Wenthur says.