The Psychedelic Renaissance
Updated: Apr 12, 2022
Psychedelic substances have long been considered taboo. However, historically we have not been able to understand their full affects due to laws prohibiting their production and/or consumption (1). My discussion today will be an introduction to a series of posts tackling the recent policy changes concerning psychedelic research and the various ways psychedelics affect the brain. Furthermore, we will touch on the historical context of these substances and how they could be applied in a clinical setting today. As a quick preview into this topic, Canada has recently legalized the medical use of psychedelics under defined circumstances, which could transform how some medical conditions are treated. However, they must be prescribed by either a physician or therapist and the patient's condition must meet certain criteria. Below is a link to a brief overview of this new legalization from Global news.
The new interest in the therapeutic possibilities of psychedelics for mental health disorders combined with recent policy change has sparked a new avenue for research coined the psychedelic renaissance (1). This is a daunting field to understand due to the variety of substances that fall under the umbrella term “psychedelic”. These substances are also often lumped in with other illegal substances. So how are they different?
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Psychedelics are defined as substances that alter sense of perception, mood and thought processes. To break it down further, classical and non-classical are the are two main categories to consider. Both groups alter perception and mood but are classified based on both chemical structure and mechanisms of action (2). Classical psychedelics are also called hallucinogens and include LSD and DMT. Non-classical/atypical psychedelics can be further subdivided into dissociative psychedelics (e.g. PCP, ketamine), cannabinoids (e.g. THC) and entactogens (e.g. MDMA) (3).
A point of interest that sets psychedelics apart is that they are not associated with a high risk of dependence (4). This is an attractive quality when researching how psychedelics could be of use in clinical settings. However, presently there are few approved therapeutic uses of these substances. Further research is required prior to a larger implementation of psychedelics as treatments for mental health disorders (5). Nevertheless, it is such an exciting time to be conducting this research and to be following along with its progress!
Written by Emma
Hadar, A., David, J., Shalit, N., Roseman, Leor., Gross, R., Sessa, B. & Lev-Ren S. (2021). The Psychedelic Renaissance in Clinical Research: A Bibliometric Analysis of Three Decades of Human Studies with Psychedelics. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2021.2022254
Halberstadt A. L. (2015). Recent advances in the neuropsychopharmacology of serotonergic hallucinogens. Behavioural Brain Research, 277, 99-120. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbr.2014.07.016
Calvey, T. & Howells,F. M. (2018) Chapter 1 – An introduction to psychedelic neuroscience. Progress in Brain Research, 242, 1-23. https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.pbr.2018.09.013
Nichols D. E. (2016). Psychedelics. Pharmacological reviews, 68(2), 264–355. https://doi.org/10.1124/pr.115.011478
Government of Canada (2022). Psilocybin and psilocin (Magic mushrooms). Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/substance-use/controlled-illegal-drugs/magic-mushrooms.html