Adverse effects of psychedelics: From anecdotes and misinformation to systematic science

This review (2022) explores the evidence to assess the psychological and psychiatric risks associated with psychedelics. It was found that medical risks are often minimal and that nearly all of the negative perceptions of psychological risks associated with psychedelics are not supported by the current evidence.


Background: Despite an increasing body of research highlighting their efficacy to treat a broad range of medical conditions, psychedelic drugs remain a controversial issue among the public and politicians, tainted by previous stigmatisation and perceptions of risk and danger.

Objective: This narrative review examines the evidence for potential harms of the classic psychedelics by separating anecdotes and misinformation from systematic research.

Methods: Taking a high-level perspective, we address both psychological and psychiatric risks, such as abuse liability and potential for dependence, as well as medical harms, including toxicity and overdose. We explore the evidence base for these adverse effects to elucidate which of these harms are based largely on anecdotes versus those that stand up to current scientific scrutiny.

Results: Our review shows that medical risks are often minimal and that many – albeit not all – of the persistent negative perceptions of psychological risks are unsupported by the currently available scientific evidence, with the majority of reported adverse effects not being observed in a regulated and/or medical context.

Conclusions: This highlights the importance for clinicians and therapists to keep to the highest safety and ethical standards. It is imperative not to be overzealous and to ensure balanced media reporting to avoid future controversies so that much-needed research can continue.”

Authors: Anne K. Schlag, Jacob Aday, Iram Salam, Jo C. Neill, David J. Nutt

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Adverse effects of psychedelics: From anecdotes and misinformation to systematic science

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Published in
Journal of Psychopharmacology
February 2, 2022
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Authors associated with this publication with profiles on Blossom

David Nutt
David John Nutt is a great advocate for looking at drugs and their harm objectively and scientifically. This got him dismissed as ACMD (Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs) chairman.


Institutes associated with this publication

Drug Science
Drug Science provides independent information about different drugs and commentary on drug policy. The organisation was founded by David Nutt and aims to provide rational information to improve how the UK (and the wider world) thinks about drugs, including psychedelics.