The meteoric rise in interest in psychedelics over the last several years has led to an avalanche of media attention, academic publications, and capital investment. Within this current era of psychedelic research, there are numerous distortions related to both positive and negative biases for and against psychedelics by various groups.
Used by Indigenous cultures for thousands of years for diverse medicinal and ritual purposes, psychedelics were also briefly an area of intense research interest in midcentury western medicine before falling victim to a moral panic and the political machinations of America’s so-called War on Drugs. Over the last twenty years, renewed research has shown potential for psychedelics to treat symptoms of numerous psychiatric disorders, as well as to shed new light on consciousness, philosophy of mind, and spirituality. Challenges to realizing these potentials are myriad and include issues of cost, justice, a limited understanding of potential harms, questions on role and form of therapy, and a dominant paradigm in medical culture of biomedical reductionism.
The purpose of this course is to review the history, pharmacology, clinical studies, and potential future applications of psychedelics and psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, with an orientation toward critical thinking in understanding why some of the current biases and issues within psychedelic research and the public narrative exist, and the challenges that psychedelics will likely face as they become “mainstreamed”. The format will consist of didactic sessions and small group discussions. Specific readings will be assigned and participants will be asked to share and reflect. Following this course, participants should have a comprehensive understanding of psychedelics and psychedelic medicine.
Introduction and History of Psychedelics
Review history of indigenous use: prehistoric into modern times
Cultural history in the USA
‘First wave of psychedelic research’
Neurobiology and Mechanisms of Action
Pharmacology, different classes of psychedelics
Imaging and other neuroscience research, psychological mechanisms
Clinical Trials in Psychedelics I
Key studies in psychedelics (PTSD, MDD)
Barriers to conducting research and trial design issues
Clinical Trials II and Harm Reduction
Medication Interactions, Contraindications, Harm Reduction
History of therapies used in past
Potential future hybridizations
Psychedelics and Meditation, other Non-ordinary States
Overlaps in mechanisms
Psychedelics as a practice?
Functional medical conditions
Psychedelics and immune modulation
Psychedelics, Serious Illness, and Death and Dying
Socio-psychedelic Imaginaries: Psychedelics, Reification, and Capitalism
Systemic economic and justice issues in psychedelic research
Psychedelic Epistemology and Critical Psychiatry
Final Reflections and Wrap-Up
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