A Psychedelic Renaissance: Historical Reflections on the Future

In February 2014 Scientific American shocked readers with an editorial that called for an end to the ban on psychedelic drug research.1 The article criticized the mental health treatment industry for failing to advance therapies beyond the golden era of the 1950s, and lambasted drug regulators for prohibiting psychedelic drugs, including LSD, ecstasy (MDMA), and psilocybin; drugs, which had historically held clinical promise but were “designated as drugs of abuse.”2 As the editors pointed out, the situation has created a paradox: “these drugs are banned because they have no accepted medical use, but researchers cannot explore their therapeutic potential because they are banned….The decades-long research hiatus has taken its toll.”3 Lest there be any confusion as to where the editors stood on the issue, they continued with explicit instructions: “This is a shame. The US government should move these drugs to the less strict Schedule II classification…it would make it much easier for clinical researchers to study their effects.”4 The article brought public and scientific attention to a growing contention amongst researchers, and even some regulators, that the clinical potential among psychedelic drugs had been dismissed due to a moral panic about drug abuse.

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