The History of Psychedelics in Medicine

  • Ben Sessa
Living reference work entry
Part of the Springer Reference Psychologie book series (SRP)


Psychedelics have been used for hundreds if not thousands of years by humans. Medical research began in earnest in the West in the late nineteenth century with the discovery of mescaline. From there we saw the development of LSD in the 1940s and an increasingly important role played by psychedelics in the 1950s in the subsequent development of biological psychiatry. Psychiatry explored psychedelic therapies extensively through to the end of the 1960s when LSD was banned. Then, other drugs emerged, notably MDMA, which took abroadly similar path to LSD; being banned in the mid-1980s. However, since then, whilst the debate around recreational uses of drugs continues, there has been a resurgence of psychedelic research in the last two decades. We now see many hundreds of new publications coming from mainstream institutions around the world studying psychedelic drugs. The history of the development of psychedelics in medicine is intimately tied-in with societal, technological and cultural changes and continues to evolve.


LSD Psilocybin MDMA Mescaline Psychotherapy Medicine Psychiatry 



Tremendous thanks goes to those friends and colleagues who have offered their kind words in the early development of this article, including George Greer, Rick Doblin, David Nichols, Richard Yensen, Charles Grob, Thomas Roberts, Neal Goldsmith, Andy Roberts and Jay H. Ellens.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Imperial College LondonLondonUK

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