A Critical Look at Psychedelic Assisted Therapy: Exploring Ethical and Social Justice Concerns

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Liggett, Clare
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This capstone project examines ethical and social justice concerns related to the emerging field of psychedelic assisted therapy (PAT). Within the context of the psychedelic renaissance – characterized by a surge in clinical research and a shift in public perception towards psychedelics for mental health treatment – there has been significant hype regarding the potential benefits of PAT, with far less attention being paid to the potential risks and harms. This paper reviews the literature to provide an overview of the wide ranging concerns across three inter-related areas: industry and culture, clinical research, and clinical practice. Key findings include harms related to commercialization and neocolonialism, biased clinical research caused by high expectancy effects, small sample sizes, and inconsistent methodology, and challenges related to autonomy and safety given the mind-altering nature of psychedelics. The literature also revealed scholarly debate regarding the best means of addressing these concerns moving forward. This highlights the need for dialectical thinking, interdisciplinary collaboration, and ethical frameworks that address and balance the differences between western scientific ways of knowing and Indigenous ways of knowing. Embracing critical voices, adopting more rigorous clinical research, and incorporating Indigenous ethics will all help in moving the field of PAT towards a more ethical, effective, and socially just industry and praxis.
psychedelic assisted therapy , psychedelic hype bubble , psychedelic capitalism , medicalization , social justice , ethical issues , abuse , risks , research bias , harms
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States , openAccess