Webinar June 12th 2023. Erika Dyck – Psychedelic Psychiatry: What can we learn from the past?

In 1956, psychiatrist Humphry Osmond first used the word ‘psychedelic’ to describe the feelings and sensations associated with LSD. The term, conceived during his correspondence with the literary genius Aldous Huxley, was soon added to the English lexicon. In spite of the popular connotations now connected to the word, Osmond developed the term out of his LSD experiments with colleagues at the University of Saskatchewan. The experiments led him to propose a new theory of schizophrenia alongside a somewhat radical suggestion to treat alcoholism using LSD. In contrast with many of his psychiatric contemporaries, Osmond and his colleagues maintained that pharmacotherapies flourished most when combined with tenets of empathy, deference, and even ritual – features he learned from Indigenous ceremonies with plant medicines. 

Although Osmond was not alone among his colleagues in the 1950s fascinated with the medical applications of psychedelics, his work in Canada made him a major figure in the history of LSD and addiction research, but also an awkward character in a looming countercultural revolution. LSD was banned from use by the late 1960s for a combination of moral and scientific reasons, but new developments in the 21st century are encouraging policy makers and researchers to revisit these historical studies. 

On Monday, June 12th at 6PM UTC+3, in a Zoom webinar presented by professor Erika Dyck from the University of Saskatchewan’s Department of History, we will dive into the history of psychedelics and consider what we might learn from the past as we entertain a psychedelic renaissance. What do we have yet to learn from Indigenous roots of psychedelic ceremonies, or from missteps of the past that might warrant a retrial? We will consider examples from the past and also look at how historical ideas have continued to influence the psychedelic movement today.

Tickets are available from our web store. For members of the association who’ve paid their membership fee for 2023, the event is free of charge. If you want to pay your membership fee for this year or become a member, you’ll find our membership products on the main page of our web store. An email with a link for free registration to the event has been sent to members of the association. If you’re not sure if you’ve paid for your membership this year, feel free to ask us.

Erika Dyck is a Professor and a Canada Research Chair in the History of Health & Social Justice at the University of Saskatchewan’s Department of History. Her interdisciplinary research brings social sciences and humanities perspectives to scientific and medical subjects. Her work has been published in medical, legal, economic, literary, philosophical, anthropological and historical venues. She is the author of several books, including: Psychedelic Psychiatry: LSD from Clinic to Campus (Johns Hopkins, 2008; University of Manitoba Press, 2011); Managing Madness: the Weyburn Mental Hospital and the Transformation of Psychiatric Care in Canada (University of Manitoba Press, 2017), which won the Canadian Historical Association Prize for best book in Prairie History; and The Acid Room: the psychedelic trials and tribulations of Hollywood Hospital (2022), nominated for Saskatchewan and BC book awards. She is also the co-editor of Psychedelic Prophets: The Letters of Aldous Huxley and Humphry Osmond (2018); and A Culture’s Catalyst: Historical Encounters with the Native American Church in Canada and Peyote (2016), and a forthcoming collection with Chris Elcock, Expanding Mindscapes: a global history of psychedelics (MIT Press 2023). She is the co-editor of the Canadian Journal of Health History (2015-present), the President of the [International] Alcohol and Drugs History Society; and co-editor of 2 international books series with McGill-Queen’s Press – History of Health and Medicine, and Intoxicating Histories. 

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