Mapping an agenda for psychedelic-assisted therapy research in patients with serious illness

Yvan Beaussant*, James Tulsky, Benjamin Guérin, Claudia Schwarz-Plaschg, Justin J. Sanders

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

14 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: With support from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, we convened researchers representing palliative care, psychosocial oncology, spiritual care, oncology, and psychedelic-assisted therapies. We aimed to define priorities and envision an agenda for future research on psychedelic-assisted therapies in patients with serious illness. Over two days in January 2020, participants engaged in an iterative series of reflective exercises that elicited their attitude and perspectives on scientific opportunities for this research. Objectives: The aim of the study is to identify themes that shape priorities and an agenda for research on psychedelic-assisted therapy for those affected by serious illness. Methods: We collected data through preconference interviews, audio recordings, flip charts, and sticky notes. We applied thematic qualitative analysis to elucidate key themes. Results: We identified seven key opportunities to advance the field of psychedelic-assisted therapies in serious illness care. Four opportunities were related to the science and design of psychedelic-assisted therapies: clarifying indications; developing and refining therapeutic protocols; investigating the impact of set and setting on therapeutic outcomes; and understanding the mechanisms of action. The other three pertained to institutional and societal drivers to support optimal and responsible research: education and certification for therapists; regulations and funding; and diversity and inclusion. Additionally, participants suggested epistemological limitations of the medical model to understand the potential value and therapeutic use of psychedelics. Conclusions: Medicine and society are witnessing a resurgence of interest in the effects and applications of psychedelic-assisted therapies in a wide range of settings. This article suggests key opportunities for research in psychedelic-assisted therapies for those affected by serious illness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1657-1666
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Palliative Medicine
Volume24
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 01 Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • existential distress
  • palliative care
  • psychedelics
  • serious illness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

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