Should We Loosen the Restrictions on Psychedelics?

The resumption of clinical research with psychedelics is producing preliminary evidence of benefit for a variety of conditions. These include depression, substance abuse and palliative care. Some research also indicates efficacy in attaining quasi-clinical goals such as “mystical-type experiences.” With proper safeguards in place, the frequency and severity of adverse effects are acceptable. These safeguards include careful screening and preparation of subjects, close supervision of drug sessions with specially trained therapists, and careful follow-up.

We are now hearing calls to increase psychedelics’ clinical availability; i.e., “legalizing psychedelics.” Michael Pollan’s popular book How to Change Your Mind encapsulates many of the arguments for loosening current regulatory burdens that restrict the drugs’ use to the research setting. But there are some risks as well, and as John Horgan reminds us in his recent blog post in Scientific American, we need to exercise due caution.

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