Psychedelics and the essential importance of context

Robin L. Carhart-Harris, Leor Roseman, Eline Haijen, David Erritzoe, Rosalind Watts, Igor Branchi, Mendel Kaelen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Psychedelic drugs are making waves as modern trials support their therapeutic potential and various media continue to pique public interest. In this opinion piece, we draw attention to a long-recognised component of the psychedelic treatment model, namely ‘set’ and ‘setting’ – subsumed here under the umbrella term ‘context’. We highlight: (a) the pharmacological mechanisms of classic psychedelics (5-HT2A receptor agonism and associated plasticity) that we believe render their effects exceptionally sensitive to context, (b) a study design for testing assumptions regarding positive interactions between psychedelics and context, and (c) new findings from our group regarding contextual determinants of the quality of a psychedelic experience and how acute experience predicts subsequent long-term mental health outcomes. We hope that this article can: (a) inform on good practice in psychedelic research, (b) provide a roadmap for optimising treatment models, and (c) help tackle unhelpful stigma still surrounding these compounds, while developing an evidence base for long-held assumptions about the critical importance of context in relation to psychedelic use that can help minimise harms and maximise potential benefits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)725-731
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Psychopharmacology
Volume32
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2018

Keywords

  • Psychedelics
  • psychotherapy
  • serotonin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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