This survey study (n=104) asked psychiatrists at two conferences about their knowledge (many aware of the promise) and opinions/concerns (lack of training, logistics, patients with contraindications) regarding psychedelic therapy. Those who worked more in research, know more about psychedelics, or were less concerned about the addictive potential scored higher in their beliefs on the effectiveness of psychedelic-assisted therapy.
“Despite resurgent interest in psychedelic-assisted therapy, our insights into psychiatrists’ knowledge and opinions about medicinal psychedelic applications are surprisingly narrow. Therefore, we anonymously surveyed psychiatrists attending psychedelic didactic presentations at two national meetings about these issues using a 26-item questionnaire. Response rate was 40.20% (106/264). Respondents were 41.73 ± 13.31 years old (range: 24–80) and 64.42% were male. They largely believed psychedelics show treatment promise and strongly supported federal funding for medicinal psychedelic research. The most common concerns were the lack of trained psychedelic-assisted therapy providers, the logistics of psychedelic-assisted therapy delivery, the administration of psychedelics for patients with contraindications, and diversion. The most desired psychedelic-related educational topics were potential benefits of psychedelic-assisted therapy, how to conduct psychedelic-assisted therapy, psychedelic pharmacology, and psychedelic side effects. Factors associated with increased belief in psychedelics’ treatment potential included working primarily in research, scoring higher on a psychedelic knowledge test, and reporting less concern about psychedelics’ addictive potential. Working primarily in research and consult-liaison psychiatry fellowship training were positively associated with support for medicinal psychedelic legalization, while increased concerns about addictive potential and attending psychiatrist status were negatively associated. Support for legalization of non-medicinal psychedelic use was negatively associated with age and positively associated with support for legalization of medicinal psychedelic use.”
Authors: Brian S. Barnett, Yvan Beaussant, Franklin King 4th & Rick Doblin
Psychedelic-assisted therapy will need to be administrated not by dedicated researchers but by psychiatrists and other mental health care workers. A looming question for psychedelics as medicines can be paraphrased as “are medical professionals ready to administer psychedelics in the treatment of patients?” The promising clinical trials should be able to sway many, yet a stigma is still attached to psychedelics. The current paper adds more data to answer this question by surveying 104 psychiatrists over the course of two presentations about psychedelics at psychiatry conferences.
The survey asked psychiatrists first about their knowledge of psychedelics (e.g. if they knew which psychedelics were of natural origin & which clinical trials phase psilocybin studies are). They were then asked about their attitudes towards psychedelics, the questions also asked about what ways the psychiatrists would like to be informed or educate themselves on this topic.
This is the support they found:
- 80% agreed that psychedelics show promise in treating psychiatric disorders, this was 60% for treating substance use disorders (e.g. alcoholism)
- 66% indicated concerns about a lack of trained psychedelic-assisted therapists, which matches nicely with them receiving less than two hours of psychedelic training
- 70% said that patients asked about psychedelic therapy a few times (60%) or often (10%)
This level of support is quite a bit higher than one would have expected only a few years ago. The study also found that nearly half of the participants knew that MDMA trials are in phase III. Even more surprising is that a third of attendees had read ‘How to Change Your Mind‘. But, what should keep into consideration is that the participants did self-select to attend a session about psychedelics, leading to a selection bias and possibly higher support than within the general population of psychiatrists.
One final observation was that some psychiatrists were concerned about the addictive potential of psychedelics. Those were also less likely to support them for substance use disorder treatments or legalization. The current evidence and a long history of recreational use find that the risk of addiction to psychedelics is (very) low. More education about the addictive potential, teaching the differentiation between psychedelics and a misguided conception of ‘drugs’ should play a part in the training psychiatrists receive.
The 26-item questionnaire given to psychiatrists is available here.