The Psychedelic Renaissance


INSTRUCTOR: Joseph Lichter


SCHEDULE: Monday, Wednesday, 12:30AM – 1:45PM

Course Description

In 2019, 3 cities in the United States (Santa Cruz, Oakland, and Denver) voted to decriminalized magic mushrooms. In 2020, a ballot initiative in the state of Oregon is in place to allow for voters to decide whether the state should allow therapy using the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms (psilocybin) as a treatment for managing mental illness, These initiatives are part of the last two decades “psychedelic renaissance”, an international movement showing more interest in psychedelics in both research and clinical applications. More physicians, researchers and policymakers are opting to research psychedelics as treatments for patients in replacement for the decades long failed modern psychiatric medicines used (such as SSRI drugs) and for developing better understanding of the brain and associated mental illnesses. Psychedelics constitute the families of chemical compounds including tryptamines, phenethylamines, and lysergamides. These are known to create altered states of consciousness, euphoria, and neurological stimulation now being explored for potential uses in treating alcoholism, addiction, mental illness, PTSD, OCD and other mental illnesses. Though these psychedelic compounds are federally scheduled as class 1 substances, efforts in biochemical and neuroscience research has helped elucidate structures and associated activities, mechanism of action including the binding to the serotonin receptor 5-HT2A, and neural activation. In this course we will look at the studies done and contextualize how the combination of failures in modern psychiatric medicines, changing perceptions on scheduled drugs (cannabis being the prime example) and a general interest in the scientific community have generated potential for new research and new avenues for treatments. The course will have us look at the history and chemistry of psychedelics, serotonin receptors, neuronal activity and the glutamatergic system, psychedelics and gene expression, research methodologies used with such molecules, why the criminalization, why the continued research and the recent resurgence of interest in the last decade specifically towards therapeutic uses. Students will lead journal club type presentations where they will read and investigate the primary sources on research that has been done. The course will also allow for students to study the policy and any important court cases in the area of psychedelics to better understand the implication of policy change and how any pending changes to the USA’s position on these compounds would need to be handled.