After decades of demonization and criminalization, psychedelic drugs are on the cusp of entering mainstream psychiatry, with profound implications for a field that in recent decades has seen few pharmacological advancements for the treatment of mental disorders and addiction. The need for new therapeutics has gained greater urgency amid a national epidemic of opioid abuse and suicides.
The question for many is how far—and how fast—the pendulum should swing, and even researchers who champion psychedelic-assisted therapy say the drive to commercialize the drugs combined with a growing movement to liberalize existing prohibitions could prove risky. Michael P. Bogenschutz, MD, professor in the Department of Psychiatry and director of the four-month-old Center for Psychedelic Medicine at NYU Langone Health, says most of the clinical studies to date have been conducted with relatively small numbers of people who were carefully vetted to screen out those with schizophrenia and other serious mental health problems.
That makes it hard to know whether there will be potential adverse reactions if the drugs are taken by millions of people without any guidance or supervision. “I know it sounds silly but, kids, don’t take these at home,” says Dr. Bogenschutz. “I would just encourage everyone not to get ahead of the data.”
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