Objective: The authors provide an evidenced-based summary of the literature on the clinical application of psychedelic drugs in psychiatric disorders.
Methods: Searches of PubMed and PsycINFO via Ovid were conducted for articles in English, in peer-reviewed journals, reporting on “psilocybin,” “lysergic acid diethylamide,” “LSD,” “ayahuasca,” “3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine,” and “MDMA,” in human subjects, published between 2007 and July 1, 2019. A total of 1,603 articles were identified and screened. Articles that did not contain the terms “clinical trial,” “therapy,” or “imaging” in the title or abstract were filtered out. The 161 remaining articles were reviewed by two or more authors. The authors identified 14 articles reporting on well-designed clinical trials investigating the efficacy of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), psilocybin, and ayahuasca for the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders, trauma and stress-related disorders, and substance-related and addictive disorders as well as in end-of-life care.
Results: The most significant database exists for MDMA and psilocybin, which have been designated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as “breakthrough therapies” for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and treatment-resistant depression, respectively. The research on LSD and ayahuasca is observational, but available evidence suggests that these agents may have therapeutic effects in specific psychiatric disorders.
Conclusions: Randomized clinical trials support the efficacy of MDMA in the treatment of PTSD and psilocybin in the treatment of depression and cancer-related anxiety. The research to support the use of LSD and ayahuasca in the treatment of psychiatric disorders is preliminary, although promising. Overall, the database is insufficient for FDA approval of any psychedelic compound for routine clinical use in psychiatric disorders at this time, but continued research on the efficacy of psychedelics for the treatment of psychiatric disorders is warranted.
Keywords: Ayahuasca; Drug-Psychotherapy Combination; Lysergic Acid Diethylamide; MDMA; Psilocybin; Psychedelics.
Reiff, C. M., Richman, E. E., Nemeroff, C. B., Carpenter, L. L., Widge, A. S., Rodriguez, C. I., … & Work Group on Biomarkers and Novel Treatments, a Division of the American Psychiatric Association Council of Research. (2020). Psychedelics and psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. American Journal of Psychiatry, 177(5), 391-410., https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2019.19010035