Elizabeth M. Nielson, PhD and Jeffrey Guss, MD

Self-experimentation with psychedelic compounds by researchers and therapists played an important and largely undocumented role in the psychedelic therapy and research of the European and North American psychiatric mainstream from the 1950s through the early 1970s. Often cited by researchers as the very source of inspiration to study psychedelics in the first place, there was a substantial concern that the first-hand experience had contaminated the objectivity of the researchers (Mangini, 1998). Academically sanctioned research and clinical work with psychedelics, sometimes referred to as above ground work, were disrupted by increasingly restrictive laws that emerged in the mid-1960s and culminated in the passage of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. These laws were created in response to the warning regarding the use of psychedelics in recreational and non-medical settings and criminalized use of psychedelics outside of sanctioned research settings and placed stringent restrictions on their use in sanctioned research settings. Although research on psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy was technically still legal and possible, a second trend toward increasing focus on double-blind trial design, for which psychedelic assisted therapy was a poor fit, coincided with the changing drug laws such that the research was effectively stopped for some 20 years (Oram, 2012). The influence and centrality of psychedelic therapists’ and researchers’ personal experience with psychedelics was a controversial point and consensus on the topic was not reached… continue reading.

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