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The War on Drugs: History, Policy, and Therapeutics

What are Psychedelics?

What are Psychedelics?

Psychedelics (serotonergic hallucinogens) are powerful psychoactive substances that alter perception and mood and affect numerous cognitive processes. They are generally considered physiologically safe and do not lead to dependence or addiction. Their origin predates written history, and they were employed by early cultures in many sociocultural and ritual contexts.

Nichols D. E. (2016). Psychedelics. Pharmacological reviews68(2), 264–355. https://doi.org/10.1124/pr.115.011478


Psychedelics are psychoactive substances that can alter perception, mood, and cognitive processes. There are two broad classifications of psychedelics that relate to chemical structure.

  • Entheogenic Plants: Plants or fungi that produce chemical substances that can cause hallucinations
  • Synthetic Drugs: Drugs created in laboratory setting to mimic the effects of entheogenic plants
Drug Characteristics Legal Status Conditions Studied Number of Studies/trials
Psilocybin (Entheogenic plant) Naturally occurring psychedelic chemical found in more than 100 species of mushrooms. U.S: Schedule 1
Canada: Schedule III
UN: Schedule I
UK: Class A
Depression, OCD, anorexia, migraines, cluster headaches, substance abuse 40
Ketamine (Synthetic) Commonly used as an anesthetic and administered intravenously (IV) or intramuscularly (IM). U.S.: Schedule III
Canada: Schedule I
UN: Uncontrolled
UK: Class B
Depression, mental health disorders, suicidal ideations, pain and related conditions, healthy subjects 925
LSD (Synthetic) First derived from ergot, a fungus that develops on grains such as rye. U.S: Schedule I
Canada: Schedule III
UN: Schedule I
UK: Class A
Cluster headaches, depression, anxiety, chronic pain, Healthy subjects 12
MDMA (Synthetic) Typically associated with rave culture, as it imparts feelings of joy combined with increased energy levels. U.S.: Schedule I
Canada: Schedule I
UN: Schedule I
UK: Class A
PTSD, autism, alcohol use disorder, Healthy subjects 43

From Jones, K. (2020, September 17). Mind-bending medicine: An overview of psychedelic substances. Visual Capitalist. Retrieved from https://www.visualcapitalist.com/overview-of-psychedelic-substances-medicine/.

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