Neşe Devenot
Postdoctoral fellow

You Can Be Both Pro-Psychedelics and Anti-Hype

Over the past decade, excited media coverage of psychedelic clinical trials has promoted narratives about psychedelics that are not in line with the existing scientific evidence base. Although preliminary research has presented signals about the potential for psychedelics to treat a broad range of diagnoses, more research is necessary to determine the safety and efficacy of psychedelics as medicines. In 2022, responding to widespread claims about clinical benefits, the American Psychiatric Association released an official position statement emphasising that there is currently “inadequate scientific evidence” to support claims about psychedelics as a mental health treatment for any indication.

Despite this disconnect between the hype and the evidence, some commentators have celebrated the hype as a welcome change after decades of stigma and a virtual moratorium on psychedelic research. Yet psychedelic hype is dangerous for both the science and the public: scientists captured by "true belief" in the efficacy of psychedelics can introduce biases into their research, while vulnerable groups are flocking to an underground that is increasingly filled with grifters and charlatans promising miracle cures.

This talk presents an overview of recent efforts to push back against the psychedelic hype, focusing on an Open Letter written by Psymposia in response to John Oliver's Last Week Tonight segment on Psychedelic Assisted Therapy. We argue that any coverage of the field that omits the potential risks and harms associated with psychedelic-assisted therapy increases the risk to the public by fueling unrealistic expectations about experimental treatments.

Neşe Devenot, PhD is a Postdoctoral Associate at the University of Cincinnati's Institute for Research in Sensing, an Affiliate Scholar at The Ohio State University's Center for Psychedelic Drug Research & Education, and a Research Fellow with Psymposia. Dr. Devenot works at the intersection of health humanities, psychedelic bioethics, neuroethics, and comparative literature. Their research examines changes to self-concept alongside the function of metaphor and other literary devices in narrative accounts of psychedelic experiences. They were a 2015-16 Research Fellow at the New York Public Library's Timothy Leary Papers and a Research Fellow with the New York University Psilocybin Cancer Anxiety Study, where they participated in the first qualitative study of patient experiences. Their book project, "Chemical Poetics: The Literary History of Psychedelic Science," is under contract with Columbia University Press.