We are currently witnessing a psychedelic revival. Psychedelic substances, such as MDMA, LSD and psilocybin are increasingly being used for the treatment of mental disorders. Many people take regular microdoses of psychedelics to experience enhanced creativity and focus. And in the Netherlands, more than 70 centres offer psychedelic retreats. But what is actually known about the potential risks and benefits of psychedelics? In this lecture, Michiel van Elk will provide an overview of the different explanatory mechanisms that have been proposed to account for the efficacy of psychedelics. He discusses how psychedelics work on a pharmacological, neural and psychological level. He also provides a critical outlook for the future of psychedelic therapy and places the current hype in perspective. A sober look at psychedelics is necessary – to temper exaggerated expectations, but also to debunk persisting common negative stereotypes about psychedelics.
Michiel van Elk leads the PRSM lab, which conducts interdisciplinary research on Psychedelic, Religious, Self-transcendent and Mystical experiences. He published the popular science book Een nuchtere kijk op psychedelica: Wat de wetenschap ons kan leren over geestverruiming. (A sober look at psychedelics: What science can teach us about broadening the mind).