Recent clinical studies illustrate that psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin may represent much-needed new treatment options for mood disorders and alcohol and other drug use disorders. More clinical studies are required to confirm the safety and efficacy of psychedelic-assisted therapies, but the cultural stigma that has surrounded psychedelics since the 1960s has hindered research. This problem is amplified in Australia. There has been a complete absence of research into psychedelic therapies, and Australian-based research advocates claim to have encountered a number of barriers. In this commentary, we provide a brief account of the historical stigma associated with psychedelics, and an overview of the contemporary context of research into psychedelic-assisted therapies, including the purported barriers to research in Australia. In light of the complex history of psychedelics, we identify a number of pressing questions relating to the social and legal context that need to be addressed so that clinical studies can proceed. Research is needed to address such questions so that the nature and extent of purported barriers to clinical studies with psychedelics can be properly elucidated, and strategies developed – with practitioners, patients, families and other stakeholders – to responsibly address these barriers. This is important because it will enable Australian researchers to contribute robust evidence about the possible efficacy and safety of psychedelic therapies, and to facilitate local expertise needed to implement psychedelic-assisted therapies, should they prove efficacious.
- Mood disorders