Annie Umbricht, MD

Study Physician

Dr. Umbricht, M.D. has been the medical monitor overseeing the safety of the psilocybin research program since 2003.  Medicine and addiction led her to witness human suffering and she has been thrilled to be part of a program promoting transformative experiences in a supportive environment conducive to healing. She is proud to be part of a team evaluating the neurological mechanisms of mystical experiences and their beneficial effects on mental and physical health. Dr. Umbricht is a graduate of University of Lausanne Medical School, Switzerland (UNIL). She joined the Johns Hopkins Institution for a residency in Internal Medicine, followed by a fellowship in Addiction Medicine at the Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit (BPRU), as she felt that physicians lacked the skills to provide effective care to patients dealing with substance use disorders, including alcohol and nicotine, while half the hospital admissions stem from the health consequences of substance use disorders. She participated in medication assisted treatment research as well as treatment of comorbidities. Her encounter with mindfulness based stress reduction as well as the Mind and Life Institute prompted her to look for a physiologic measurable outcome of stress and wellbeing. Control or downregulation of the breath (Prāṇāyāma), one of 8 arms of yoga, was rightfully described more than 2500 years ago as an actionable target to expand one’s energy. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a very important buffer in the blood affecting all aspect of metabolism as well as tissue oxygenation so that optimal levels are needed for optimal health. CO2 can be measured at the end of expiration via capnometry, and Dr. Umbricht is now measuring End Tidal CO2 (EtCO2) as a reflection of optimal or disordered breathing.  Capnometry biofeedback has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of asthma, anxiety and panic disorders. Dr. Umbricht found that seventy percent of healthy smokers have low CO2,  a marker of dysfunctional breathing and she will test whether capnometry biofeedback can help smokers quit smoking.

Aside from the research laboratory and patient care, Dr. Umbricht is launching a hydroponic urban farm in a Baltimore distressed neighborhood to provide sustainable economic growth, good nutrition, cooking and STEM education while growing local food. Baltimore eats the equivalent of 86 Millions dollars-worth of lettuce annually: why send all of this money to California or other far away places. Another way to be mindful about CO2 in the circle of life.