What are psychedelics?
The discovery of psychedelic substances as LSD and psilocybin, during the mid-nineteen fifties, made a big impact on the scientific community. By 1965, over 2000 papers had been published, describing the results of treating over 40.000 patients for anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, depression and alcoholism. However, the lack of control groups, proper subject screening and follow-up studies made it hard to draw any firm scientific conclusions, although many patients reported experiencing benefits.
Despite these benefits, most psychedelic substances were made illegal during the late 1960s for political reasons. Not the lack of scientific merit, but LSD’s association with counter-cultural movements played an important role in the ban of these substances. As a result, the therapists and scientists that had been working with psychedelics were forced to abandon their research. Psychedelics research came to an end as quickly as it had come to life.
Psychedelics research today
Today, the tide is steadily turning. Studies looking at the uses of psychedelic substances are being carried out in accordance with contemporary scientific standards. These substances include psilocybin, LSD, ayahuasca, DMT, ibogaine, ketamine, and MDMA. Interestingly, many of these substances are found in plants and mushrooms that are used sacramentally and for healing purposes in traditional cultures.
Although the scientific results look promising and many researchers working with these substances believe psychedelics to have great potential, many of the results remain relatively unknown to the general scientific community.
Psychedelics research focuses on the scientific investigation of psychedelic drugs (psychedelics), and is undertaken in many academic disciplines, such as psychopharmacology, philosophy, psychiatry, the social sciences, neuroscience, anthropology, and many other fields. During this interdisciplinary conference, we aim to showcase the multi-facetedness of research into psychedelics. Findings from one discipline may inform, explain, or help understand those from others. With ICPR, our explicit aim is to facilitate a dialogue between the various presentations.
While the term ‘psychedelic’ itself has some associations with counter-culture, OPEN has chosen to use this term to refer to a specific set of substances. In use since the fifties, ‘psychedelic’ is adapted from the ancient Greek words for mind or psyche (ψυχή) and to manifest (dēloun, δηλοῦν), roughly translated as having mind-manifesting effects. Other terms that are sometimes used interchangeably are hallucinogens or entheogens.
Psychedelic substances are capable of provoking pronounced and profound effects on consciousness, perception, emotion and cognition. The effects depend in large part on the conditions under which they are taken, such as expectations, intentions and preparation (also called the set). Besides, interpersonal relations, professional guidance and a supportive setting also play an important part in determining the outcome of an experience.