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    Policy Opportunities and Challenges for Psychedelics in Therapy


    The use of classic hallucinogens/psychedelics in a therapeutic context: healthcare policy opportunities and challenges

    Rafael Guimarães Dos Santos, José Carlos Bouso, Juliana Mendes Rocha, Giordano Novak Rossi, and Jaime E Hallak.

    Risk Management and Healthcare Policy



    About the study

    This study discusses the challenges and opportunities for policy makers regarding the use of classic hallucinogens or psychedelics in a therapeutic context, as they have become promising substances to treat depression, anxiety, and substance-related disorders.

    After analysing psychedelics’ great therapeutic potential according to scientific literature, the authors stress the necessity to establish a dialogue between scientists, policy makers, community agents, social and health professionals, spiritual leaders, ceremony providers, and activists.

    Rather than insisting on repressive and persecution oriented policies, progressive and regulating-oriented approaches will be, according to the study, of benefit for society.



    Rationale: Psychedelics or serotonergic hallucinogens are a group of substances that share the agonism of serotonergic 5-HT2A receptors as their main mechanism of action. Its main effects include changes in perception, cognitive process, and mood. Despite being used for centuries by different cultures in ritual contexts, these substances have currently aroused the interest of science and industry for their promising antidepressant, anxiolytic, and anti-addictive effects.

    Methods: Considering this evidence, this article aims to explore some of the possible health policy challenges to integrate these therapeutic tools into broad and heterogeneous health systems. As a main benefit, these substances produce rapid and enduring effects with the administration of single or few doses, which could lead to new treatment possibilities for patients with severe mental disorders resistant to the usual medications. The main challenge is associated with the fact that these substances remain scheduled in most countries and are associated with social stigma related to their recreational use (especially LSD and psilocybin). This situation makes it exceedingly difficult to conduct clinical trials, although international conventions allow such research. Ethically, this could be interpreted as a violation of human rights since thousands of people are prevented from having access to possible benefits. 

    Results: Interestingly, ritual ayahuasca use is more acceptable to the public than the use of psilocybin-containing mushrooms or LSD. The controlled, clinical use of LSD and psilocybin seems to be less criticized and is being explored by the industry. Rigorous scientific evidence coupled with industrial interests (LSD and psilocybin), together with respect for traditional uses (ayahuasca) and international conventions, seems to be the best way for these drugs to be integrated into health systems in the next years. Which highlights the need for an urgent dialogue between science, health system, society, and politics.


    Link to the article


    Contact ICEERS Research team


    Photo by Adrien Converse on Unsplash.

    Categories: Studies & papers , Drug policies
    Tags: LSD , psilocybin , psychoactive , psychedelics , hallucinogens , healthcare , study , therapeutic , drug policy