Sunday, October 17, 2021

Opinion | Go Slow on Psychedelics

To the Editor:

Re “Psychedelics Are Poised to Reshape Psychiatry” (front page, May 10):

We support removing criminal penalties for use and increasing medical research into psychedelics, but urge a “go slower” approach.

First, the people advocating access and promoting the studies of psychedelic drugs — patients, therapists, companies and investors — are usually enthusiasts motivated by positive personal experiences using these substances. While understandable, this bias supplants the dispassionate, objective mind-set that serious scientific research requires.

Clinical trials for approval by the Food and Drug Administration do not take into account the unfettered post-marketing use, when the volume and variety of patients receiving the drugs and the duration of their follow-up are vastly greater than in the controlled studies being conducted.

Moreover, the level of training of therapists and methods by which these substances are optimally administered is far from standardized.

Another concern is America’s tendency to rush to commercialize these substances for all consumers. If the medical marijuana story is any lesson, it won’t take long for the greater access to psychedelics to fall prey to serial entrepreneurs and profit seekers, not well-intentioned physicians or patients.

The unbridled enthusiasm and commercial momentum generated by psychedelics are excessive and ill advised until we have more sound research. We hate to be a buzz kill, but science and prudence say slower is better.

Jeffrey Lieberman
Kevin Sabet
Dr. Lieberman is chair of psychiatry at Columbia University, and Dr. Sabet is a fellow at Yale University.

To the Editor:

Re “What We Can Learn From Fearless Girls” (column, May 17):

Nicholas Kristof has illuminated several truths that must be faced as U.S. troops are withdrawn from Afghanistan. We support his suggestions and call our government to the moral obligation to provide safety, even asylum, to those Afghans who have supported U.S. operations; to the practical necessity of providing aid for education, particularly for girls, and to provide security for all women and girls, many of whom fear the U.S. withdrawal, and upon whom the practical future of the country depends.

As civil-society activists with firsthand knowledge of the benefits of education to Afghan girls, we implore the United States not to abandon them, but to join with the world community in providing aid for education and other fundamental security needs, and to assure physical security through a United Nations peacekeeping force.

Betty Reardon
Chloe Breyer
New York
Ms. Reardon, a feminist peace educator, is founding director emeritus of the International Institute on Peace Education. Ms. Breyer, an Episcopal priest, is director of the Interfaith Center of New York.

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