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Sunday, December 12, 2021

Moral Psychopharmacology Needs Moral Inquiry: The Case of Psychedelics

Langlitz N, et al. (2021) 
Front. Psychiatry, August, 12:680064


The revival of psychedelic research coincided and more recently conjoined with psychopharmacological research on how drugs affect moral judgments and behaviors. This article makes the case for a moral psychopharmacology of psychedelics that examines whether psychedelics serve as non-specific amplifiers that enable subjects to (re-)connect with their values, or whether they promote specific moral-political orientations such as liberal and anti-authoritarian views, as recent psychopharmacological studies suggest. This question gains urgency from the fact that the return of psychedelics from counterculture and underground laboratories to mainstream science and society has been accompanied by a diversification of their users and uses. We propose bringing the pharmacological and neuroscientific literature into a conversation with historical and anthropological scholarship documenting the full spectrum of moral and political views associated with the uses of psychedelics. This paper sheds new light on the cultural plasticity of drug action and has implications for the design of psychedelic pharmacopsychotherapies. It also raises the question of whether other classes of psychoactive drugs have an equally rich moral and political life.

From the Conclusion

If moral psychopharmacology took it upon itself to develop forms of psychedelic apprenticeship for the currently sprawling medical and non-medical applications of psychedelics, it would extend pharmaceutical research and development into the extra-pharmacological realm. Such a design process needs to be informed by best practices in clinical psychology and cognate fields, but, intellectually, it cannot hide behind professional prescriptions because what counts as good and bad is precisely what is at stake here. It is an open philosophical question that has to be answered in a recursive process of psychopharmacological experimentation, clinical and ethnographic observation, historical research, and ethical reflection.