Psychedelic research: balancing trippyness with a new scientific rigor – The Conversation Weekly podcast transcript

Psychedelic research: balancing trippyness with a new scientific rigor – The Conversation Weekly podcast transcript
Research into psychedelics and their medical uses is making a comeback. 24K-Production via Shutterstock

This is a transcript of The Conversation Weekly podcast episode: Psychedelic research: balancing trippyness with a new scientific rigor, published on September 29, 2022.

NOTE: Transcripts may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Dan: Hello, I am Dan Merino in San Francisco.

Gemma: And I’m Gemma Ware in London. Welcome to The Conversation Weekly.

Gemma: Dan, you just got back from the Burning Man festival, didn’t you? How are you feeling?

Dan: I’m actually feeling OK. I was a little hoarse after a week in the desert, staying up all night. But it was great to be back to the party out in the desert in Nevada. Wonderful to see a bunch of friends I haven’t seen in a long time and just felt good to go have some fun. And it’s beautiful out there, it’s really pretty up there in the high desert.

Gemma: OK, so … pretty, but is that also because everyone’s just having an amazing time being high on mind-altering drugs?

Dan: Huh, well, you’re not wrong. But it’s not just about being high in the desert. The association between Burning Man and psychedelics is actually pretty intellectual. There’s a lot of researchers that go out there. A lot of the psychedelic people that have been in this space for a long time, and they have a bunch of talks and events, and I went to some of them this year. It was super fascinating.

Gemma: Hmm. OK. I know the research into psychedelics that perhaps had stopped for a while is now making a bit of a resurgence. Was anyone talking about that?

Dan: Absolutely. And it’s funny to be at Burning Man and you know, there’s that person mostly naked, really high, running around in the sun and then like world-renowned researchers talking about their work. But that work is really good and it’s been really interesting to see how much people have learned about psychedelics in the last ten years, because it is so much more than we ever knew in the past.

Robin Carhatt-Harris: If you stimulate the two-way receptor, all hell breaks loose, you know, that’s the action of classic psychedelics, and you can have the most profound altered state of consciousness of your entire life, at least that you can remember. So it’s a wild ride.

Dan: This is Robin Carhart-Harris. He’s a scientist at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), and I went and interviewed him in person at his office in the pretty swanky new UCSF building on the other side of town from where I live.

Robin: I am the Ralph Metzner distinguished professor of neurology and psychiatry at UCSF. I research psychedelic drugs, how they work in the brain and whether they can be clinically useful, and that includes looking at their limitations as well.

Dan: In 2021, Robin coordinated a clinical study of psilocybin in the UK while he was at Imperial College, London. Psilocybin is a naturally occurring psychedelic compound produced by many species of mushroom. It’s the thing that gets you high if you eat so-called magic mushrooms. We’ll be hearing more about that study later in this episode. But first, I wanna make sure we are all on the same page about what a psychedelic experience is like. So here’s Robin, describing the common themes he sees when patients take magic mushrooms and while you listen, pay attention to the language that he uses.

Robin: It might sound a little trite to say, but it’s weird. Like your body feels different and things look different and sound a bit different. And then the visual domain starts to kind of dominate, like things really look weird. And if I close my eyes, I’m having visions. Where’s that stuff coming from?

So there’s like a metaphysical belief challenge. Like what is this? Never been this way before. It’s a reflective state. It’s all a sort of smudge of being. Because ordinarily we keep a pretty good lid on our emotions, but under psychedelics you don’t and the poetic term is the heart opens. And often even in healthy volunteers, they cry and they open up and they start thinking about things that happened in the past or have been happening that are salient, personally salient.

And so there lies a really interesting aspect of it, which is this ego dissolution. Arguably a key function of ego is to identify differentiation, and when that function breaks down, logically, what it’s replaced is a sense of de-differentiation, so a sense of unity and interconnected unity. Like everything is interconnected in a web of relationships. So that’s not nothingness, it’s sort of everythingness, and that feels like a profound spiritual realisation and a good realisation. It’s flavoured with love, which is such a curious thing.

Dan: All righty, Gemma. So what does that sound like to you? Does it make you wanna eat some drugs and get high and run around?

Gemma: It’s such mumbo jumbo to me, and I know Robin is a really respected academic, but to me it makes no sense. Ego dissolution, de-differentiation, these are concepts that have no meaning to me as someone who is pretty green and has never done anything like this before.

Dan: I think that’s a very reasonable response to that kind of language. But interestingly enough, the language Robin is using has actually been a part of the way scientists and researchers have evaluated psychedelic experiences since the 50s and it’s been pretty divisive since. According to some scholars, it even partly explains why the US government really limited research into psychedelics.

So in this episode, we’re gonna look into the scientific, legal and social history of psychedelic research, how the work of early advocates in the US played a role in the decision to ban them and how scientists like Robin are today, finally starting to study the medical benefits of psychedelics in earnest. But first, let’s start with some history.

Wayne Hall: Wayne Hall, I’m an emeritus professor at the University of Queensland of Australia. I’ve been working in the area of addiction, drug policy, mental health, I guess for nearly 40 years.

Dan: In 2021, Wayne published a paper on the history of psychedelic research. So I asked Wayne about the origin of human use of psychedelics.

Wayne: It was primarily in the Americas, central America and in north America around plant-based drugs, mescalin in particular and other mushrooms. It was often a sort of mix of therapeutic and religious use that various Indigenous people in that part of the world engaged in. And it was largely suppressed by the Spanish because they regarded these drugs as fairly satanic.

Dan: There’s evidence that Mayan and Aztec people in central America have been using psychedelic mushrooms and peyote (a type of cactus with psychedelic properties) for at least 3,000 years. Many Indigenous peoples use psychedelics for religious, spiritual and ritualistic practices. When Spanish colonists arrived in the 16th century, they thought that psychedelics were related to the devil, but they also feared that Indigenous peoples could be using psychedelics to harness the devil’s power and form witchcraft to retaliate against colonial rule. By 1620, the Spanish had banned the use or trade of any plant with psychedelic properties.

Wayne: A large part of the Jesuit attempt to discourage religious practice and the use of psychedelics was part of that. I mean they were quite happy to adopt other drugs, they reintroduced nicotine or tobacco into Europe.

Dan: The Spanish ban certainly didn’t stop use of psychedelics in Indigenous populations over the ensuing centuries. Over the years, western anthropologists, biologists and chemists documented native use, studied some of the psychedelic plants and mushrooms and even synthesised MDMA and mescalin in the late 1800s. But the modern era of psychedelics truly began in the late 1930s.

Wayne: There was an enthusiasm for psychedelics in the 20s and 30s, but it never really captured a lot of attention.

Dan: Though the specifics are somewhat disputed, the story goes that Albert Hoffman, a Swiss chemist, somehow kind of accidentally discovered the synthetic psychedelic “lysergic acid diethylamide” or LSD in his laboratory. Legend has it that on April 1938, Hoffman became the first person to get high on LSD while biking home from work.

By 1947, a Swiss pharmaceutical company – Sandoz Laboratories – began marketing and selling LSD as a drug psychiatrists could take to better understand schizophrenia. It only took a few years for LSD to get to the States when in 1949, a group of 100 US doctors took the drug.

Wayne: They were initially interested in these drugs as ways to understand the experiences of people with psychosis. So it was often recommended that if you’re a psychiatrist and you wanted to understand better what it was like to have schizophrenia and other psychosis, you take this drug.

Dan: By the early 1950s, researchers had started running trials to see if LSD could treat alcoholism, depression and other various mental health conditions.

Wayne: Back then, you didn’t need an ethics committee to approve research. You didn’t need a clinical trial protocol. You just tried out the drugs on your patients to see if they worked. They did publish scientific articles in journals, but you know, they wouldn’t pass muster by contemporary standards. So, yeah, not great research, but probably of quality that was reasonably comparable to other work being done at that time.

Dan: The trials of the time certainly lacked the rigour of modern science, but nonetheless, the results were pretty compelling.

Wayne: They’re talking about 50-60% of people with chronic alcohol problems becoming and remaining abstinent, and so that provoked quite a bit of research by other more sceptical observers, which was marginally better in quality than the original work, but not a lot better. And on the whole, it tended to suggest that if there were benefits from psychedelics in the treatment of alcohol dependence there were fairly short lived. They tended to disappear. I mean, there’s no surprise there given what we’re talking about with a chronic relapsing condition as a lot of people had in the large mental hospitals.

Dan: With psychedelics being used so widely in medicine, it was almost inevitable that people would start to experiment with them outside of medical circles.

Wayne: It was really the 1960s and well, I guess the names that usually pop up are: Timothy Leary, who’d taken psychedelic mushrooms and became an advocate for the use of LSD.

Dan: Timothy Leary, who had started off his career as a psychoanalyst and was a professor at Harvard University in the late 50s and early 60s, had tried mushrooms containing psilocybin for the first time during a trip to Mexico in 1960. Following that experience, he came across LSD in the US and became a strong advocate for its use in ways that were more social and cultural rather than medical.

Wayne: Leary very much put a religious cast around it, but there was a whole range of people and they varied in their attitude towards drugs. Ken Kesey was just about hedonism, freak out freely, have fun. And Hunter S Thompson was famously sceptical about religious uses of psychedelic drugs saying that one of the mistakes the counterculture made was assuming that there was a god at the end of the light in the tunnel. So, a wide variety of views of the world, but I guess the Leary one tended to get the highest profile in the media and popular culture.

Dan: While Leary believed that LSD showed a lot of potential for therapeutic uses in psychiatry specifically, he also developed a bit of a transhumanist philosophy. He called for things like space colonisation, life extension and increasing the human intellect generally with the help of LSD. Wayne says that initially US media coverage of Leary and his fellow psychedelic advocates was pretty positive, but that began to change in the mid 1960s.

Wayne: The activities of Leary and Kesey and others alarmed a lot of parents. There were undoubtedly casualties as well. I mean, when you have a drug that’s widely used and particularly by young people who might have various sorts of problems, then you end up with casualties. And they were widely publicised at the time.

Dan: As opinion became more negative and Leary kept on being an advocate for psychedelics, parents of the students at Harvard University protested Leary’s involvement with psychedelic research. In 1963, Leary lost his professorship. By the late 1960s, he was often being called Mr LSD.

Wayne: The other thing, and it’s something that I think we’re seeing a resurgence of now, is that these drugs have a real inclination to produce gurus and disciples. You end up with various sorts of cults forming around the use of these particular drugs. The most infamous was Charles Manson.

Dan: Charles Miles Manson was an American musician who led the infamous Manson family, a cult based in Los Angeles, California in the late 1960s. Manson would specifically target vulnerable, young people for his cult, and then ask his followers to take LSD and submit to him. It’s very creepy stuff that eventually culminated in a series of murders of some famous Hollywood actors.

Wayne: But he wasn’t the only one. There was a whole series of other lesser-known cult groups that use psychedelics to recruit and often abuse and exploit followers.

Dan: As a result of these darker trends amongst the psychedelic community, the use in study of psychedelics, including both LSD and psilocybin, became increasingly restricted by the US government.

Wayne: And it was 1968, Reagan was the governor in California and California was the first state that passed restrictive laws around the use of these drugs, banning their non-medical use. But it didn’t become a federal law in the US until 1970, that was under Nixon.

Dan: In 1968, Richard Nixon, who was running for president at the time, positioned himself as the voice for Americans who were frustrated by counterculture and nostalgic for conservative values. Immediately after winning the presidency, he delivered a special message to Congress, a bid to overhaul drug regulation and enforcement. This was the beginning of the war on drugs.

Wayne: Research on these drugs continued beyond the ban into the early 70s, and the state of Maryland had a large research centre that continued to do work on psychedelics as late as 1979.

Dan: But interestingly, the ban of non-medical use of psychedelics in the United States prohibited companies from patenting any psychedelic compounds.

Wayne: And because they were out of patent, pharmaceutical companies weren’t that interested in doing research on them because they couldn’t patent them, they couldn’t make money.

Dan: The 70s brought an increased scrutiny on the initial trials done on psychedelics in LSD in the 50s and 60s. This led to a re-examination of the claims that LSD could treat addiction and depression.

Wayne: As better quality research was done, the results were nowhere near as positive as the earliest reports. There was still evidence of benefit in the short term: people often responded positively to these drugs with things like anxiety and depression and to a degree some of the addictions. But when people were followed up over six or 12 months, a lot of the benefits of treatment tended to dissipate. So I think for a variety of reasons, interest in doing research on these drugs largely died out.

Dan: Not only was there the scientific questioning of previous assumptions, there was also a social shift within medicine in how psychedelics were perceived – and not for the better.

Wayne: Working on these drugs would get people a bad reputation, so there was a lot of discouragement of people. I think what drove it was, obviously Leary was in the forefront and he was out there saying some pretty outlandish things. So there was the fear that you might end up like Timothy Leary, or if these drugs do this to Harvard professors, what might they do to you? The sort of pressure was if you want a promising career, then you’d be wise to stay away from those drugs.

Dan: Apart from a few exceptions, like the research centre in Maryland, the legal restrictions placed on psychedelics in the late 60s and early 70s pretty much killed psychedelic research. But that’s been changing in the past few decades.

Since the 1990s, the US government has been softening its attitude towards psychedelics and has recently been supporting research into their use. While in the past, research mostly focused on LSD. Today, a lot of the effort and money is going towards psilocybin, the psychedelic compound found in magic mushrooms, as well as hundreds of other mushroom species. There was also some research into a few other compounds like MDMA and ketamine, though these aren’t true psychedelic compounds like LSD or psilocybin.

Wayne: The FDA is encouraging the people to do larger trials and the funding to do those trials has been forthcoming. So, we’re seeing work in this area gain momentum since the early 2000s. I guess 2006 is often the date given when one of the earliest studies was published. I think there is sufficient novelty around this that high-impact medical journals were interested in publishing it.

Dan: All of this attention and support from the medical and scientific community has made it so the US Food and Drug Administration is considering approving psilocybin for medical use by 2024. Wayne says that one reason for such a dramatic turnaround is that enough time is passed with the association of psychedelics, with the counterculture revolution and cultish figures like Manson and some of the others has really faded from the public’s mind.

Wayne: The 60s are a long, long time ago, and there’s not that many people who lived through that. The memory of all the silliness that went around with psychedelics back in the late 60s is largely faded. And I think people looking back and seeing, arguing as they often do, that the research on these drugs was abandoned prematurely as a consequence of the criminalisation of non-medical use.

Gemma: Dan, so psychedelics were banned in the 1970s, but then we also know that they’re making resurgence in research circles. So what happened in between? How did we get from banning to “you can have a dabble if you want”?

Dan: Yeah, it’s a little bit of a tricky story, Gemma, absolutely. Under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, it was declared that psychedelics fall into schedule one drugs, which means that there is no known beneficial medical use or something to that effect, and it’s illegal to carry or sell or use them recreationally. But you can still study controlled substances if you apply for approval from the FDA. So people could have been doing that this whole time, it’s just really hard to get and kind of at the whims of the government’s feelings, so to speak.

Gemma: OK. So you can do it, it’s just quite hard and there are now more people doing so. But I guess even if you’re one of those lucky people who does get the license, you’ve still got the stigma of the language, this image of psychedelics, that it’s kind of all mumbo jumbo like we were hearing earlier.

Dan: Absolutely. There’s still a lot of social association with hippies and getting high and Woodstock and Burning Man, to be quite honest. But according to a lot of researchers, it’s not just history that’s made it hard for psychedelics to kind of enter mainstream medicine. So remember when Robin was describing psychedelic experiences? He used terms like “boundlessness” and “ego dissolution” and “universal interconnectedness”.

Interestingly, in the scientific community, this very language is actually a part of how psychedelic experiences are assessed, and this is called the mysticism framework. I spoke to a researcher who believes that this kind of language can be a bit of a problem if you’re trying to do precise science, and he thinks it could even be skewing results.

Josjan Zijlmans: I’m Josjan Zijlmans. I’m a post-doctoral researcher in Amsterdam. I work at the University Medical Centre there at the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. I do much research into child mental health, which is sort of half of the stuff I do and the other part of my time, I’m interested in psychedelic research and teaching classes on psychedelics at universities as well.

Dan: Josjan recently co-published a paper with one of his students, James Sanders, in which they analysed the questionnaires and in particular the language of these questionnaires that participants in psychedelic studies are given.

Josjan: So for example, what people do is when they do clinical studies where they treat, for example, people with depression, with psychedelics, they give them the mystical experience questionnaire.

Dan: These mystical experience questionnaires as they’re called – that’s actually the technical term – ask participants to describe their experience of psychedelics by rating a set of statements.

Gemma: The mystical experience questionnaire Dan, I feel like we should do it. Let’s bring it up.

Dan: Absolutely agree, Gemma. So I’ve got it pulled up here. Let me read you the instructions. Ready. So imagine you’ve just had a nice psychedelic experience. Looking back on the entirety of your psilocybin session, please rate the degree to which at any time during that session, you experienced the following phenomena. And this is a one through five scale, which five being more extreme than at any other time in my life. So, I’m just gonna pull some questions at random. How about: did you have an experience of the fusion of your personal self into the larger hole?

Gemma: The fusion of my personal self into the larger hole. Wow.

Dan: What about the loss of your usual sense of time and loss of your usual sense of space?

Gemma: I mean, that happens quite often. So maybe, maybe.

Dan: OK. Maybe you should check the tea you’re drinking. One final one there. Did you have certainty of an encounter with ultimate reality in the sense of being able to know and see what is really real at some point during your experience?

Gemma: I’d like to think that most things I see are real, but yeah, I don’t know. It’s unfair. I haven’t just had psilocybin so I’m not the best person to ask these questions, but I guess even if I had, I don’t know how I would answer.

Dan: They are kind of weird Gemma, but nonetheless of them being kind of weird and out there, these are the questions that make up the mysticism framework that researchers use today.

Josjan: What we mean with the mysticism framework is that mystical experiences are some sort of experience that can occur during psychedelic experiences and that they entail some sort of unity feelings, some sort of sacredness. And also there’s this idea that there might be some relation to some ultimate reality or to some ultimate truth you might experience.

Dan: This mystical framework was being used throughout the 50s, 60s and early 70s during the heyday of psychedelic research up until legal restrictions halted the work. So when research started back up in the 2000s, scientists returned to the only good assessment tool they had: the mystical framework.

Josjan: I think one of the really groundbreaking studies that put psychedelics a little bit back on the map again, is one that really used the mystical experience questionnaire.

Dan: Josjan here is referring here to a study that was conducted in 2006 by Roland Griffiths at Johns Hopkins University. During 14 months, 135 volunteers were given high doses of psilocybin and studied so that researchers could learn about the acute and longer-term psychological effects.

Josjan: And it was one of the first times I should say, that people really, again, got psychedelics to try and describe the experiences and see what it may do to them.

Dan: Over the course of the trial, the volunteers were asked to complete the mystical experience questionnaire. The results were published in a paper that concluded, “When administered under supportive conditions, psilocybin occasioned experiences similar to spontaneously occurring mystical experiences.”

Josjan: What I am concerned about is an item such as “encountering ultimate reality”, I think there’s many problems with it because honestly, I don’t know what that item means. I wouldn’t know what to answer to such a question. And I think when people do have an answer to that question, I’m very doubtful whether people really mean the same thing by it. It makes it hard to understand what is the thing that we’re trying to grasp. So I think that as a research field, we can do better in trying to describe the sort of facets that the experience is about to better delineate it and to be more specific about it.

Dan: So I guess in another sense you’re saying, let’s not discount these experiences. Let’s just find out, let’s just come up with better ways of defining them.

Josjan: I think the experience that people are trying to describe, I think that’s a very valuable experience. But I think calling it mystical is a misnomer because mysticism in general is associated with many vague and supernatural concepts, which I also think are not, shouldn’t be part of, of this sort of scientific endeavour.

Dan: Have you found any negative impacts that have come from this mystical framework?

Josjan: One issue is that if we’re sticking with mysticism, then it seems that it’s hard to really get deeper into the problem or deeper into the issue. I also think that we might be biasing our participants in particular ways. Suppose that you have a psychedelic experience. So suppose you are in this clinical trial, you’re a very depressed person and you are in this treatment to try and get better. And then you have this psychedelic experience, which can be completely overwhelming, can be transformative. It’s a very strong experience, probably you’ve never experienced anything like it. And then some people come with a questionnaire and they say, “Well, isn’t it that you encountered ultimate reality?” You’d be like, “well, maybe I encountered ultimate reality, you know? It could be that, I’m not sure yet. But it could be that.”

I think it might be much more fruitful to them if you would give them at least more of a secular framework that has fewer implications from the get go.

Dan: Is there something about the nature of psychedelic experiences because they are so unique and a lot of the healing and the therapeutic benefits seems to come from the craziness that happens in the brain during a psychedelic experience? They certainly are different than other drugs. Does that make this whole endeavour a little bit more complicated?

Josjan: Yes, definitely. It definitely makes it more complicated to really describe the experience well. But more optimistically, I don’t think that changes the fundamental idea that we can describe them well and that we can deepen them out and flesh them out as much as possible. So there’s this idea that psychedelic experiences are ineffable, that it’s impossible to describe them well. I think that’s just completely pessimistic. Why would there be anything we can describe? It just needs more work.

Dan: People like Robin Carhart-Harris, who we heard from earlier. are on the forefront of the modern resurgence of psychedelic research. The phase II clinical trial he ran in 2021 compared psilocybin to the modern antidepressant escitalopram and found psilocybin to be more effective at treating depression. This study is a perfect example of how there is still a lot to be learned about the potential medical uses of psychedelics.

Robin: The sceptics would look at that and think these bloody hippy scientists, they think they’ve got a panacea. Now, an alternative view is to say there is method to this apparent madness and psychedelic therapy targets a core dimension of psychopathology.

Dan: Robin’s study is just one of many that are making up the growing body of research looking at psychedelics to treat mental health issues.

Robin: A lot of it’s been looking at depression. Some of it’s been looking at anxiety and depression, depressive symptoms in end of life. Some of it’s looked at addiction treatment, substance addiction, typically alcohol dependence, tobacco addiction. I’m not sure people have necessarily realised the significance of that.

Dan: He says the results of his study and the other largest clinical trial published so far have been promising.

Robin: The take home is that response rates defined as at least 50% drop in your score of depressive symptoms, bu the response rates were consistent in those two studies, and there were 70%. Remarkably good!

Dan: 70% of participants experienced a 50% reduction in depressive symptoms. Robin says that when thinking about these kinds of results, it’s important to keep in mind that they’re produced in a controlled setting where participants received adequate guidance.

Robin: So absolutely, we don’t say, just go and take a psychedelic. We support them during the experience, typically with two mental health professionals, ideally. The patient is typically encouraged, invited to close their eyes, maybe put an eye shade on and listen to music, and we provide them with a carefully crafted music playlist that takes them on a journey and stirs their emotion. As you start to come down, people take the initiative and often take the eye shade off and start to talk. That’s always very informative and interesting, and there’s a lot of wisdom when they start to do that.

Dan: According to Robin, his and other research shows that psychedelics, when paired with psychotherapy could offer an additional way of effectively treating mental health issues.

Robin: Psychoanalytic type psychotherapy is already sort of out of date in a sense and cannot work in major healthcare systems because it’s too expensive and you can’t treat everyone. So psychotherapy is a middle way which is kind of catalysing psychotherapy.

Dan: It’s this combination of therapies, both drugs, whether psychedelics or traditional antidepressants, along with psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, that Robin says will really be the future of mental health treatment.

Robin: Drug alone is too blunt a tool to be a hammering at mental illness with. So fundamentally, I see psychedelic therapy, as the name implies, as a combination treatment. Then the question is: well what do we combine the drug with? And its preparatory psychological support, which is about rapport building, trust building. So I think, in a sense, psychedelic therapy is a middle way.

Gemma: It really sounds like psychedelic research has come a very long way from the 1960s or when people were experimenting on themselves and we’re now in controlled experiments in labs and really studying the effects of what it’s doing on people.

Dan: Absolutely. I’m excited to see how things play out in the future. How the tension between the hippiness and the social parties, atmosphere of psychedelics works with or against the not only research side of things, but also with people’s willingness to try some of these medical treatments if the research does show that they are in fact better than what we’ve got. We’ve got interesting times ahead of us.

Gemma: OK, that’s it for this episode. And we should say of course, before we finish that The Conversation does not endorse taking psychedelic substances. All the recent research we’ve talked about in this episode was done under strict ethical rules. We would like to say a few thank yous to our global executive editor, Stephen Khan, to Alice Mason for our social media, to Soraya Nandy for help with our transcripts and to Graham Griffith for all his help in the last few months.

Dan: You can find us Twitter @TC_audio; on Instagram; or via email. You can also sign up for our free newsletter, there’s a link in the show notes. If you like what we do, please support our podcast and The Conversation generally by going to

Gemma: This episode of The Conversation Weekly was produced by Mend Mariwany with sound design by Eloise Stevens. Our theme music is by Neeta Sarl, and I’m Gemma Ware, the executive producer of the show.

Dan: I’m Dan Merino. Thank you all so much for listening. See you next week.

The Conversation

Robin Carhart-Harris is scientific advisor to a number of new companies and not-for-profits that are seeking to develop psychedelic therapy and bring it to market. These include Beckley Psytech, Journey Colab, Journey Space, Mindstate, Usona, Synthesis and Mydecine. He has previously received funding from the Medical Research Council. Wayne Hall received AUD 5,000 for writing a briefing paper on psychedelic drugs for the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at University of New South Wales, which receives funding form the Australian government.

Josjan Zijlmans does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.