Drugs That Alter Your Mind: Neuroscience, History, and Therapeutic Potential of Psychedlics

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Drugs That Alter Your Mind: Neuroscience, History, and Therapeutic Potential of Psychedlics

  • Host University

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  • Location

    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • Area of Study


  • Language Level

    Taught In English

    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    This course will introduce the student to the emerging, interdisciplinary field of psychedelics. From a scientific perspective, it will address the scientific history of psychedelics, effects and risks, the neurobiological and psychological function of psychedelics, and advances and methodological problems in modern research into therapeutic potential. From a social perspective, it will address psychedelics’ cultural history, their current recreational use, social and political perception, and their legal status. As both recreational and medicinal use of psychedelics are controversial topics, students are encouraged and assisted in critically assessing both research and practice.

    Psychedelics have had a turbulent past. They have been hailed as miracle drugs, capable of relieving any psychiatric illness, but also as wildly dangerous. The psychiatrist Stanislav Grof famously put it: “the potential significance of LSD and other psychedelics for psychiatry and psychology is comparable to the value the microscope has for biology or the telescope has for astronomy.” A score of research in the 1950s and 1960s was performed on how psychedelics can be used to treat depression, trauma, and addiction, but after a major cultural shift all psychedelics research became outlawed. Now, 40 years later, researchers are again looking at the therapeutic value of these drugs, of which some remain illegal (e.g. MDMA, LSD), but others not (e.g. “magic truffles”). Especially MDMA has gained clinical interest since the US Food and Drug Administration has granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation to MDMA for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), speeding up particularly promising research.


    Lectures, writing individually and in groups of three, peer presentation, organized trip to a scientific conference on Psychedelics in Amsterdam

    Students are evaluated on an individual essay (50%), a group-based research plan (35%), and presentation of the research plan (15%).


Course Disclaimer

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