Intense interest in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy has been sparked over the last five years, as promising results of Phase 2 and 3 clinical trials reaffirm the potential for psychedelics to aid in the treatment of a range of mental health conditions.
Historically, the “natural” classical psychedelics - psilocybin, mescaline and LSD - were employed as adjuncts to psychotherapy for the treatment of alcoholism and mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. More recently, DMT in ayahuasca has generated interest for its therapeutic potential.
Reflecting the extended duration of LSD and mescaline at therapeutic doses, but more significantly, the troubled sociopolitical history of LSD, the current “psychedelic renaissance” has largely been led by psilocybin, which (along with DMT) is the prototypic serotonin receptor agonist with psychedelic effects.
The primacy of psilocybin in clinical use may, however, be short-lived, as the range of serotonin 5HT2A receptor agonists that elicit psychedelic experiences is broad (and set to expand as research in psychedelic chemistry is revitalised), and the range of experiences they elicit is almost as diverse. Ultimately, it appears likely that an increasingly nuanced approach to the use of psychedelics in medicine will see the searchlight casting well beyond its current narrow focus.
In this presentation, I will discuss the current emphasis on psilocybin as the psychedelic of choice for clinical research, and then consider the potential for a broad range of other classical psychedelics – from 2C-B to AMT - to play important roles in future research and, ultimately, clinical practice.
Martin Williams PhD is currently a Research Fellow in Computational Neuroscience at the Turner Institute of Brain and Mental Health, Department of Psychology, Monash University, Melbourne. Previously, he was a Research Fellow in Medicinal Chemistry at the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Monash University.
Martin was founding President and is currently Executive Director of the health-promotion charity, Psychedelic Research in Science & Medicine (PRISM, established 2011), and founding and current Vice-President of the botanical/education charity, Entheogenesis Australis (EGA, established 2004).
Through PRISM, Martin and colleagues have been advocating since 2011 for mental health research using psychedelic compounds in Australia, and in doing so, have established global connections with leading researchers in the field. He has contributed to the planning and approvals process for several Australian clinical trials of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy and is currently an investigator on several studies of psilocybin, MDMA, and other psychedelics.
Martin has been an articulate advocate for psychedelic medical research and the evidence-based clinical translation of psychedelic-assisted therapies for almost twenty years. He has co-authored several academic papers providing an Australian perspective on the subject, presents regularly at conferences and symposia, and is a frequent commentator on psychedelic research and governance in Australian print and broadcast media.