Book Review - Medical Psychedelics

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After a bit of a rocky start last century, the past few decades have seen a healthy resurgence of psychedelic research. And although myriad studies have been carried out by researchers and published in scientific journals during that time, there has always been a glaring absence of academic textbooks available for burgeoning psychedelic nerds, researchers, and academics to reference when trying to learn about the existing body of psychedelic research—until now.

Fortunately for the rest of us, Dr. Oliver Rumle Hovmand, a psychiatry resident in Denmark who has an interest in the clinical use of psychedelics, pored over the existing research, put together a collection of the most important studies, and included them in a new book that was published this March.

Medical Psychedelics explores the clinical applications of some of the better-known psychedelics, including LSD, psilocybin, ayahuasca, DMT, MDMA, and ketamine. In it, Hovmand examines the available pre- and post-prohibition medical literature, focusing on the practical aspects of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. He plans to update the book annually and develop it into a textbook that can be used when (or if) these substances become legal. This blog post is a review of the first of what will hopefully be many editions of this work.

The intended audience for the book would probably consist of medical and psychological professionals, budding researchers, science-minded psychonauts, and laypeople who are interested in learning more about clinical psychedelic research. If you fit into one of these categories, it might be right up your alley.

During the book’s introduction, Hovmand mentions that he uses the term “psychedelics” to refer only to classical psychedelics like psilocybin and LSD, but Medical Psychedelics also covers ayahuasca and DMT, one empathogenic psychedelic (MDMA) and one dissociative psychedelic (ketamine). The primary emphasis is on the classical psychedelics and MDMA, although there may simply be a larger body of research about these psychedelics than ayahuasca, DMT, and ketamine at this time.

Each substance is covered in depth at the beginning of its respective chapter, including the history, effects, and risks surrounding that particular drug. Hovmand then moves on to discuss its potential applications in psychedelic therapy before getting to the real essence of the chapter: a review of the existing clinical research. This consists of a series of actual research studies that are included in the book.

While I did find Medical Psychedelics to live up to its promise as a comprehensive textbook on the subject, there were a few things that I believe could be improved upon in a future edition. For starters, a table of contents would be helpful. This would make it easier to skip to certain sections of the book or find specific studies and would acquaint first-time readers with its structure before they dive in.

Some sections are more fleshed out than others. For example, there is a ton of information available on MDMA research but very little about ketamine. As mentioned earlier, this is may be due to the possibility that there is more research about some drugs than others. In addition, several areas of research into these drugs were excluded that could have been explored, like treating eating disorders with ayahuasca and MDMA or reducing pain with ketamine.

And there are plenty of other psychedelics to cover as well. Delving into the research involving other psychedelics like mescaline, 5-MeO-DMT, iboga, and salvia divinorum would take Medical Psychedelics to another level.

The only other thing I think the book would benefit from is a bit of editorial polish. There are typos here and there, but the overall meaning of the work is not lost and it can be easily overlooked as long as you know to expect that going into it. All of these are simply areas of opportunity, not dealbreakers that should prevent anyone from reading the book who would otherwise be interested in doing so.

Medical Psychedelics is a solid attempt at what may be the first-ever textbook on psychedelic research. Hovmand did an excellent job condensing a ton of valuable information into a fairly small book, and it could prove to be an invaluable resource for anyone who wants to learn about the clinical research into the medical applications of psychedelics. But if you’re looking for anything other than scientific research studies and related commentary then you should probably look elsewhere. It is an academic textbook after all, so you shouldn’t expect an easy read or clever prosaic writing style. But if this book sounds like it would be up your alley, then it probably is.

4/5 stars, 219 pages

Click here to buy the book.

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In addition, the author provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. However, this is not a sponsored post—all thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.