Podcast | The untapped potential of psychedelics in psychotherapy

Research shows the drugs can be effective in treating depression and substance-use disorders — but there’s still much we don’t know.

Carl Zimmer, Dr. Sunil Aggarwal, and Dr. Nathan Sackett at the Crosscut Festival

From left, Carl Zimmer, Sunil Kumar Aggarwal and Nathan Sackett speak on stage during the Crosscut Ideas Festival in Seattle on May 6, 2023. (David Ryder for Crosscut)

Psychedelics are moving back into the mainstream. According to a growing body of medical research, psychedelic drugs such as psilocybin and ketamine can have a profound impact on people struggling with mental health conditions, including depression, post-traumatic stress and substance-use disorders.

As a result, legal barriers are beginning to fall away. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has designated psilocybin as a “breakthrough therapy,” for example, accelerating its path to approval, and recently released draft guidance for all clinical trials with psychedelic drugs

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For this episode of the Crosscut Talks podcast, we listen in on a conversation among science journalist and author Carl Zimmer, palliative and rehabilitative care physician Dr. Sunil Kumar Aggarwal and University of Washington psychiatry professor Dr. Nathan Sackett about the rapidly emerging field of psychedelics in psychotherapy.

They discuss these drugs’ specific effects on the brain, explain their use in clinical practice and in current research and explore some of the bigger questions raised — from the challenges of practicing medicine in a legal gray area to the nature of human consciousness.


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