Psychedelic medicine at a crossroads: Advancing an integrative approach to research and practice
Psychedelics have been already used by human societies for more than 3000 years, mostly in religious and healing context. The renewed interest in the potential application of psychedelic compounds as novel therapeutics has led to promising preliminary evidence of clinical benefit in some psychiatric disorders. Despite these promising results, the potential for large-scale clinical application of these profoundly consciousness-altering substances, in isolation from the sociocultural contexts in which they were traditionally used, raises important concerns. These concerns stem from the recognition that the mechanisms of therapeutic action of psychedelics are not entirely dependent on neurobiology, but also on the psychological, social and spiritual processes for their efficacy. For these reasons, physicians or psychotherapists involved in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy need training in ways to accompany patients through this experience to promote positive outcomes and address potential side effects. Psychedelic therapies may foster the emergence of a novel paradigm in psychiatry that integrates psychopharmacological, psychotherapeutic, and cultural interventions for patients with mental health issues.