The Project

The PsychedELSI project addresses ethical, legal, and societal challenges posed by psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy and critically accompanies ongoing research. Its overarching objective is to clarify and assess the implications of the psychedelic renaissance for patients, therapists and healthcare providers, policymakers, and society at large. It aims to provide the academic groundwork for empirically informed decisions about the upcoming reclassification of these drugs and further regulatory and policy matters, securing important aspects in the current translational phase of psychedelic interventions. To this aim, the project brings together expertise from the following fields:

  1. Psychiatry & Psychotherapy (Dr. med. Dimitris Repantis; Dr. Chiara Caporuscio; Dr. med. Astrid Gieselmann; Dr. sc. med. Christopher Poppe; Charité Berlin)

    The use of psychedelics in therapeutic settings raises several questions of the ethics of psychedelic therapies, for instance because of the vulnerabe state of patients during the experience and power imbalances between therapists and patients. Moreover, the conditions of informed consent for potentially belief- and personality changing interventions, and the preparation of patients for an experience which many may consider one of the most meaningful expereinces of their lifes need to clarification. Also, risks and benefits may differ between various treatment methods and the therapeutic relationship between patients and therapists may change.

  2. Anthropology (Prof. Dr. Nicolas Langlitz, The New School/RWTH Aachen University)

    Prof Langlitz’s work departs from an ethnographic description and analysis of the practice of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy as a basis for its ethical and epistemological assessment as well as regulation. So far, scientific publications informing the regulatory process have been based on randomized placebo-controlled trials examining the effects of psychedelic drugs, not the practice of psychedelic psychotherapy as a whole. Our analysis focuses on this practice, the therapeutic relationship, and the values and norms currently guiding research.

  3. Philosophy (Jun.-Prof. Dr. phil. Sascha Benjamin Fink, OvGU Magdeburg; Dr. phil. Chiara Caporuscio, OvGU Magdeburg/Charité Berlin)

    Psychedelics raise intruiging philosophical question. For instance, the assessment of psychedelic therapy requires an analysis of the epistemic status of psychedelic-induced experiences: Are they mere hallucinations or do they produce genuine insights? If the pharmacological induction of mystical-type experiences produced comforting delusions, which made patients feel less anxious or depressed by distorting their views of reality, would such interventions in their belief systems be ethically acceptable? How does this kind of intervention compare to how other psychopharmaceuticals transform patients’ outlooks, or personality?

  4. Social Sciences (Univ.-Prof. Dr. Torsten H. Voigt; M.A. Minsu Yoo, RWTH Aachen)

    The ongoing reevaluation of psychedelic therapy is echoed by largely positive media reporting. Considering that Western societies are becoming more permissive in their attitudes toward mind-altering drugs, we will conduct a survey on attitudes towards psychedelic drugs and their use in psychotherapy to better understand changes in their public perception in Germany.

  5. Law & Legal Philosophy (Dr. iur. Jan Christoph Bublitz, Universität Hamburg)

    The psychedelic renaissance raises various ethical and regulatory questions. The project will analyse legal aspects at different levels: international drug control treaties and human rights law,  EU pharmaceutical laws regarding market authorization, domestic narcotic and medicinal law, as well as rules and regulations of medical and therapeutic practice. Drawing on the work of the different project partner, we seek to provide guidance for policy makers about future regulations of psychedelics.