The Battle Over Psychedelic Therapy's Future

In a new documentary, VICE News explores what legal psychedelic therapy and access will be like in the US, and if it will be accessible.

It’s been 67 years since J.P. Morgan executive Gordon Wasson took magic mushrooms in a remote village in the Mazateca mountains with a healer named María Sabina. 

“We chewed and swallowed these acrid mushrooms, saw visions, and emerged from the experience awestruck,” Wasson wrote in a Life magazine article


Wasson’s trip, and his documentation of his experience, introduced much of the Western world to psychedelic mushrooms. Psychedelics found a place in the counterculture movement, as well as a new field of research, where psychologists used them alongside psychotherapy for various conditions.

But after Nixon’s war on drugs, psychedelics receded into the legal and cultural underground for decades—until now. There's been a resurgence in research on psychedelic medicine, as top-tier universities have been showing their potential to treat depression, substance use disorders, PTSD, and more. Combined with the best-selling book How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan, FDA breakthrough designation on clinical trials, and new legislation legalizing psilocybin services, psychedelics are entering the mainstream as they never have before.

What will the future of psychedelic access and psychedelic assisted therapy look like? Along with conferring legitimacy, mainstreaming has also raised fresh concerns in the world of psychedelics about patents on psychedelic compounds, for-profit companies, and the potential for inequities when it comes to who can afford these treatments, who will own them, and how they can be used

In this VICE World News documentary, the major players in the new psychedelic scene are introduced: nonprofits, for-profits, the people implementing the new psilocybin laws in Oregon, the patients in clinical trials, the therapists, the lawyers, and the entrepreneurs. They’re all hoping to help shape the future of psychedelic access and medicine, but as correspondent Charlet Duboc said, “Right now, pharmaceutical companies, nonprofits, and state governments all have different visions for what psilocybin therapy could look like.” 

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