The history of psychedelic science

During the 1950s and 1960s, psychedelic-assisted therapies were considered the future of psychiatry. Promising outcomes were described for conditions such as end-of-life anxiety, depression, and alcoholism. Psychedelic-assisted therapy as it is known today was largely invented during this era by pioneers such as Humphry Osmond. This initial wave of psychedelic research took place before any type of meaningful regulation existed.

The resurgence of psychedelic Science

As a response to the political turmoil in the 1960’s and widespread recreational use, psychedelics were made illegal. Despite promising research results, institutional grants were no longer awarded to research programs involving psychedelics. This led to the end of the first generation of psychedelic research (for a review, see Nichols, 2021).

The twenty-first century has seen a resurgence in psychedelic research, pioneered by researchers at universities such as Johns Hopkins University and Imperial College London. This research has largely been funded by philanthropy through non-profit organizations. High quality, peer-reviewed research has demonstrated the potential for psychedelic-assisted therapy in contexts of depression, end-of-life anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance use disorders (for review, see Reiff et al., 2020).

Mental illness is a major global burden that involves enormous societal costs and great human suffering. Existing treatments and medicines work for some, but a large part of patients are left without sufficient treatments despite trying all available options. As the modern research of psychedelics continue, experts in the field are now hoping that psychedelic-assisted therapies could lead to a paradigm shift in mental health.

In the media, psychedelics are sometimes portrayed as miracle cures. The field is quickly becoming commercialized as the reputation of psychedelic medicine continues to take shape. Yet the research is still at an early stage. More research is needed to understand if, how, and for whom these treatments work. Fortunately, the interest among researchers is increasing rapidly.

Norrsken Mind funded the first modern Swedish clinical study using a psychedelic substance in 2020. It was a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study, focused on investigating psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy as a treatment for depression. In 2022, the Swedish Research Council awarded a grant to clinical psychedelic research for the first time.

Today, governments and public agencies across the world are increasingly showing an interest in exploring the treatment potential of psychedelic-assisted therapies. The European Medicines Agency's Chief Medical Officer Steffen Thirstrup, wrote in March 2023 that "psychedelics assisted therapy looks promising to tackle several mental health conditions," while pointing to the need for "scientifically rigorous evidence to support efficacy and safety of psychedelics"

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