Germany

This page has been made possible with the help of Jagoda Mackowiak of the MIND Foundation.

Psychedelics are currently illegal in Germany. However, OVID Health Systems clinics in Berlin offer ketamine-assisted therapy for patients with depression, anxiety, and PTSD. At the moment, two clinical trials investigating psilocybin for the treatment of depression are underway at Berlin’s Charité hospital. The country is also home to atai Life Sciences and the MIND Foundation.

Psychedelics in Germany: A Brief History

Psychedelic research has a long history in Germany. In 1912, researchers at the German pharmaceutical giant Merck were the first in the world to synthesize MDMA. Despite not pharmacologically testing the substance, Merck was quick to patent MDMA as it was an important precursor in a new synthesis process they had been working on for other substances. It wasn’t until 1927 and later in 1959, that the pharmacological effects of MDMA were studied at Merck but not in humans [1]. In 1976, Dow Pharmaceuticals chemist Alexander Shulgin discovered MDMA’s effects after synthesizing a batch and testing 120 milligrams on himself.

Like many countries across the world, researchers in Germany began experimenting with LSD and psilocybin once they were introduced to the world in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1955, German psychiatrist Hanscarl Leuner had the idea to start treating patients with low doses of LSD in conjunction with psychotherapy. Over the course of five years, Leuner conducted some 1,300 therapy sessions with psychedelics including LSD, mescaline, psilocybin, and more in Gottingen [2].

While psychedelic research is believed to have ground to a halt the world over in the 1970s, this wasn’t the case in Germany. Research with psilocybin continued at the University of Cologne until the 1990s [3]. In Göppingen, researchers were investigating the effects of mescaline in 1992 [4]. Psychedelic research faded away by the end of the 90s as the stigma and the notion that all drugs are bad began to sink in Germany.

Psychedelics in Germany Today

The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research recently awarded unprecedented federal funding to a clinical trial with psychedelics. The clinical trial named “EPIsoDE – Efficacy and Safety of Psilocybin in Treatment-Resistant Major Depression” is conducted at the Central Institute for Mental Health in Mannheim and the Charité Campus Berlin Mitte. At the Central Institute of Mental Health Mannheim, Gerhard Gründer is leading the trial whereas Michael Koslowski is the coordinator at Charité. Charité also serves as a study site for Compass Pathways Phase II study exploring the effects of psilocybin in patients with treatment-resistant depression.

Like in many other countries, ketamine remains the only legally accessible psychedelic in Germany. SPRAVATO®which is the brand name for S-ketamine, can be prescribed by medical professionals, also in private ketamine clinics OVID is one such clinic that offers Augmented Psychotherapy where the effectiveness of psychotherapy is enhanced with additional techniques, such as administration of ketamine or with non-pharmacological methods, like flickering light induced by Lucia N°03. OVID currently offers ketamine-assisted therapy at their clinic in Berlin but is planning to expand to other cities soon. Additionally, people who have had an intense psychedelic experience can contact OVID if they desire to better integrate the experience into their day-to-day life.

Key Organisations

The MIND Foundation is a German-based non-profit that connects psychedelic research and education. The organisation was founded by Henrik and Andrea Jungaberle in 2016. The team at MIND are largely responsible for the recent renewed interest in psychedelic research in Germany. The Foundation and its researchers played an important role in getting the approval for the EPIsoDE trial at Charité and will continue to work on the trial as it progresses.

MIND is also organizing the psychedelic conference INSIGHT, one of the largest psychedelic research conferences in Europe. Additionally, OVID is a sister company of MIND. It was founded to train therapists and work on creating the necessary infrastructure for the future of psychedelic treatments in Germany.

Berlin is also home to one of the biggest companies operating in the field of psychedelic medicine, atai Life Sciences. atai is one of the most well-funded companies operating in the psychedelic research field. The company provides a platform for research on novel pharmaceuticals, including psychedelics and their analogue compounds. Right now, nine subsidiary companies are working on a range of substances, from psilocybin, through MDMA and DMT, to Salvinorin A, the active compound in an obscure psychedelic called Salvia divinorum. atai aims at incubating drug development with a decentralized research approach

References

1. Freudenmann RW, Oxler F, Bernschneider-Reif S. (2006) The origin of MDMA (ecstasy) revisited: the true story reconstructed from the original documents. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1360-0443.2006.01511.x

2. MAPS. (1997). Hanscarl Leuner: Pioneer of Hallucinogen Research and Psycholytic Therapy. https://maps.org/news/bulletin/hanscarl-leuner-pioneer-of-hallucinogen-research-and-psycholytic-therapy/

3. Frank, M. (2021). Psychedelic drug research comes to Berlin. https://www.berliner-zeitung.de/en/psychedelic-research-comes-to-berlin-li.148455

4. Hermle L, Fünfgeld M, Oepen G, Botsch H, Borchardt D, Gouzoulis E, Fehrenbach RA, Spitzer M. (1992). Mescaline-induced psychopathological, neuropsychological, and neurometabolic effects in normal subjects: experimental psychosis as a tool for psychiatric research. https://doi.org/10.1016/0006-3223(92)90059-9

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