Psychedelic Psychiatry: What can we learn from the past? A recording of our webinar with Erika Dyck now available

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.

In a webinar lecture held in June 2023, professor Erika Dyck from the University of Saskatchewan’s Department of History, we dove into the history of psychedelics and considered 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 considered examples from the past and also looked at how historical ideas have continued to influence the psychedelic movement today.

The lecture is now available on our Youtube channel!

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