Not really picked up by international media (and actually neither national media), was the news from a couple weeks ago that the Maastricht University (located in the deep South-East of the Netherlands) is now offering a course in psychedelics.
Course in psychedelics
It’s called ‘Psychedelic Medicine: The therapeutic Potential of mind-altering Substances’ by the ‘Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience’. The full course description reads as follows.
Full course description
Long before Western people in the sixties and seventies tried out psychedelics for recreational and therapeutic purposes, other cultures had already been using them for ages because of their therapeutic potential. This ‘psychedelic wave’ in the West scared off politicians leading to a scheduling of these substances and a halt to scientific research into the effects of those substances.
In the nineties placebo controlled studies emerged looking into the negative effects of these drugs due to reports that these users might be cognitively impaired after abundant use of a number of these substances. Two decades later however, after the negative effects had been demonstrated to be limited, when used in moderate amounts, and after the substances appeared to be relatively safe, research into the positive effects started rising and it is blossoming today.
While previously only a handful of labs investigated these effects, new research labs in other countries are emerging. The therapeutic potential of psychedelics is now being widely investigated and two companies are now setting up trials in psychiatric patients in order to demonstrate the therapeutic potential of these compounds. Their aim is to have those substances approved as a psychiatric medicine within a few years.
While psychedelic research is experiencing a renaissance, it is still treated as the ‘bad daughter’ in psychiatric settings and frowned upon by the general public. From the patient side however there is a large demand for effective and alternative treatments since treatment is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ thing and many of those patients fail to benefit from current treatments, leaving them in distress and despair with a pessimistic view on their future.
Psychedelic researchers have the obligation to educate you, students, about the positive and negative effects of these substances since you will encounter this in your future work. When you have this knowledge, you will be able to communicate to the lay audience and to patients in an objective way what the current state of affairs is.
If I would be eligible for this course, I would definitely follow it. The course has the following objectives:
After you have finished this course you will know:
- what psychedelics are;
- about the history of psychedelics and research into this;
- about the neurobiological mechanism of a selection of psychedelic substances;
- about the positive and negative, acute and long-term effects on cognition, mood and social behaviour;
- how psychedelics could be of use in a therapeutic setting;
- what kind of psychiatric indications could benefit from psychedelic treatment;
- how to do research with psychedelics.
More psychedelic research in the Netherlands
Interested in reading more about the therapeutic potential of psychedelics? Consider picking up or borrowing Michael Pollan’s How To Change Your Mind. It’s a must-read.