Psychedelic substances have been used for ages in some cultures: for example Psilocybin (i.e. the active ingredient of magic mushrooms) which has been used by the indigenous people of Mexico and Central America for hundreds of years (Pollan, 2018). Or take ayahuasca, which has been used by the indigenous people of the Amazon. In Western countries, it is the discovery of LSD by the swiss chemist Albert Hoffman in 1943 that started an enthusiastic drive to research psychedelic substances for medical use. In the 50s and 60s, psychedelics found their way into psychotherapy, where they were used to treat a wide range of disorders like anxiety, depression and alcoholism (Pollan, 2018).
Psychedelics also became a part of the counterculture of the 60s as a recreational use became a symbol of social upheaval and political dissent. As a response to the hippie movement, conservative political and social movements made a lot of negative press towards psychedelics by stressing the dark sides of these substances – bad trips, psychotic breaks, suicides (Pollan, 2018). In 1971, President Nixon declared war on drugs and outlawed psychedelics even for medical and research purposes, which put an end to the use of psychedelics in psychotherapy. Nixon’s war on drugs spread all over the world, including Switzerland.
Today, after several decades of absence of research, a new generation of scientists is exploring psychedelics’ potential to heal a variety of mental illnesses, which is often described as a “psychedelic renaissance”. Several research groups exist in both the Americas and Europe: The Imperial College London launched the world’s first Center for Psychedelics Research in 2019; regarding Switzerland, there are research labs at the universities of Zurich, Basel, Geneva and Fribourg. The Swiss law enables psychiatrists to use certain psychedelic substances in some cases where patients are resistant to other treatments. While the use of psychedelics in a therapeutic setting is still rare in Switzerland, some clinicians still have been able to get a certain level of expertise on the subject.
Despite the great comeback of psychedelic science, most people – the public, academics, students – are relatively unaware of the progress in the field. PALA – Psychedelic Association of Lausanne for Awareness – is the very first university association in Switzerland dedicated to psychedelic science and decided to organize the ALPS conference – Awareness Lectures on Psychedelic Science – the first swiss academic conference on psychedelic science! ALPS aims to provide an occasion for clinicians, researchers, students and any people interested in psychedelics to acquire and deepen their knowledge about the present situation in this domain. The ALPS conference will take place in Lausanne from the 29th to the 31st October 2021.
Do you want to be part of this? Tickets are still available! Visit https://www.alpsconference.com/ to save your spot in the crowd!
Pollan, M. (2018). How to Change Your Mind. Penguin Press.