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Studies with psychedelic drugs in human volunteers

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Scientific curiosity and fascination have played a key role in human research with psychedelics along with the hope that perceptual alterations and heightened insight could benefit well-being and play a role in the treatment of various neuropsychiatric disorders. These motivations need to be tempered by a realistic assessment of the hurdles to be cleared for therapeutic use. Development of a psychedelic drug for treatment of a serious psychiatric disorder presents substantial although not insurmountable challenges. While the varied psychedelic agents described in this chapter share some properties, they have a range of pharmacologic effects that are reflected in the gradation in intensity of hallucinogenic effects from the classical agents to DMT, MDMA, ketamine, dextromethorphan and new drugs with activity in the serotonergic system. The common link seems to be serotonergic effects modulated by NMDA and other neurotransmitter effects. The range of hallucinogens suggest that they are distinct pharmacologic agents and will not be equally safe or effective in therapeutic targets. Newly synthesized specific and selective agents modeled on the legacy agents may be worth considering. Defining therapeutic targets that represent unmet medical need, addressing market and commercial issues, and finding treatment settings to safely test and use such drugs make the human testing of psychedelics not only interesting but also very challenging.
Sellers, E. M., Romach, M. K., & Leiderman, D. B. (2017). Studies with psychedelic drugs in human volunteers. Neuropharmacology. 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2017.11.029
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