Unlocking the potential of psychedelics as medicine: Past obstacles and future outlooks

Sharon Y. Kim*, Rayven-Nikkita Collins, Jimmy Teng, and Leanna Kalinowski

Edited by Hannah LeBlanc and Jennifer A. Cascino

Review | Aug. 31 2023

*Email: sharon.kim@usuhs.edu

DOI: 10.38105/spr.osqbpecncp


  • The growing recognition of psychedelic compounds for their therapeutic potential signifies their renaissance in medicine, but our understanding of their clinical application remains in its early stages
  • Progress in psychedelic research and clinical translation has been impeded by ongoing controversies surrounding their use, legal status, and safety; however, attitudes have been evolving, prompting a reevaluation of the compounds’ role in medical research and treatment
  • Policies, funding trends, and initiatives aimed at improving access to psychedelics have significant ethical, public safety, healthcare access, and equity implications

Article Summary

Psychedelic compounds are known to exert profound effects on the mind and have been used by humanity for centuries. In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in the therapeutic potential of these compounds, particularly when integrated with psychotherapy, to treat psychiatric conditions. Psychedelics may also have the potential to drive transformative advancements in the field of medicine, transcending the boundaries of psychiatry. This resurgence in interest can be attributed to a series of clinical studies that have showcased the compounds’ therapeutic effects, safety profiles, and mechanisms of action. Yet, our understanding of the medicinal potential of psychedelics is still in its nascent stages. The historically negative perceptions of these substances, along with legal and regulatory obstacles, have posed challenges for researchers and institutions seeking to conduct rigorous scientific studies. Nevertheless, in recent years, there has been a growing shift in attitudes and increased interest in unlocking the therapeutic potential of these compounds, prompting a reevaluation of their role in medical research and treatment. Now, policies and initiatives designed to enhance access to these substances have important ethical, public safety, healthcare access, and equity implications. This review seeks to provide an overview of psychedelics while delving into funding trends, policies, and initiatives poised to drive the field toward new horizons.

Open Access


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Sharon Y. Kim

School of Medicine, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD

Rayven-Nikkita Collins

Department of Anatomy & Neurobiology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA

Jimmy Teng

Department of Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA

Leanna Kalinowski

Department of Community Health and Health Behavior, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY