Federico Seragnoli

ALPS Comittee Coordinator

Opening Talk

Peter Gasser

DR. MD, Physician for psychiatry and psychotherapy, Swiss Medical Society for Psycholytic Therapy, FMH

The psychedelic renaissance and thereafter

Since the end of the last century the research with mind altering drugs started again after a long halt of about 30 years. In countries like the United States, Great Britain and Switzerland different research groups started scientific projects in phase 1 (effects in healthy volunteers) or phase 2 (safety and efficacy in diagnostic groups) drug research protocols.

The growing attention and presence in the media led to the highly symbolic labelling of the “Psychedelic Renaissance” after 2010. Today the acceptance and curiosity for these fascinating substances that can “change your mind” (like stated in the bestselling book of Michael Pollan) or “reveal your soul” (translation for “psychedelic”) or let you feel connected to the universe, has reached academic faculties and pharmaceutical companies.

This development contains possibilities and challenges. What do we have to face after the Psychedelic Renaissance? Psychedelic Humanism, Psychedelic Reformation or Psychedelic Conquest?

Gregor Hasler

M.D., LSD researcher, psychiatrist, psychotherapist and professor at University of Fribourg

Adverse effects of psychedelics: are they all part of the therapeutic process?

In medicine, an adverse effect is an undesired harmful effect resulting from a medication or other intervention. In psychedelics research and therapy, the term “adverse effects” is rarely used because there is the assumption that all negative, unpleasant effects are part of the therapeutic process. Is this really true? The minority of psychedelic studies that systematically assess this show that unpleasant effects are very common and that anxiety, nausea and headaches are the most prevalent ones. Are these symptoms part of the therapeutic process? Are they side effects related to the main therapeutic effect? Or are they adverse effects in the strict sense of the term which we should systematically assess and document? In my talk, I want to initiate a discussion about these important questions.

Jeremy Narby

Swiss-canadian anthropologist, PhD in University of Stanford, author of The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge

Psychedelic science and the knowledge of indigenous Amazonian people: a true science of ayahuasca calls for a new kind of research

Scientists and researchers have recently become interested in the therapeutic potential of the Amazonian plant brew ayahuasca. But administering this powerful hallucinogenic cocktail requires considerable know-how and finesse. Indigenous Amazonian people have long used the brew and therefore have expertise in the matter. In their view, ayahuasca works first and foremost as a purge; and the brew’s efficacy depends on icaros (curative songs), which have healing power, and on dietas (preparatory diets), which consist in refraining from certain foods and behaviors, and which can fine-tune a person’s capacity to benefit from the brew. A true science of ayahuasca calls for a new kind of research – one that opens up to another way of knowing, and draws out its consequences, without seeking to prove it or disprove it; one that questions its own presuppositions.

Franz Xaver Vollenweider

Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Neuropsychopharmacology and Brain Imaging

University of Zürich

Self and emotion regulation in Meditation and Psychedelic States

The burgeoning interest in the therapeutic potential of psychedelics for the treatment of psychiatric disorders has revived efforts to unravel their psychological and neural mechanism of action. A core feature of the psychedelic experience is the dissolution of self/ego-boundaries, often described as feelings of oneness with the world, which arises sequentially and concomitant with varying changes in emotions, thought processing, and perception. The dissolution of self-boundaries and alterations in emotion processing has been postulated to be central to their therapeutic activity. Notably, many meditation practices aim temporally to reduce self-boundaries which were found on the long run to diminish self-focus and promote lasting benevolent emotions and prosocial behaviors. In this presentation, I will summarize our current understanding of system-based mechanisms that may underlay the psychedelic drug effects on the sense of self and emotion processing, and their potential role for therapeutic long-term effects of psychedelics.

Peter Oehen

Psychiatrist at University of Basel, SÄPT member, Head researcher for the Swiss MAPS program

Substance-Assisted Psychotherapy with MDMA and LSD: Working with a group therapy model

After 2014 it became possible to treat patients in Switzerland in an out-patient setting with case-by-case licenses for MDMA, LSD and psilocybin. These licenses are issued by the the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health based on the Swiss Narcotics Act which allows for a restricted medical use of scheduled psychotropic drugs.

After initially using these substances in a one-to-one setting, a group model was developed which includes up to 12 patients and 3 therapists within a 3-day format. This presentation describes this substance-assisted group psychotherapy model, the requirements for therapists and patients, methodological and therapeutic challenges, patient characteristics, outcomes and observations made from 2014 - 2020.

Daniele Zullino

MD; PhD; FMH; Chief of Department at University Hospital of Geneva - Addictology Department

Consumption motives of psilocybin-users

The use of psychoactive substances can occur for a variety of mutually non-exclusive reasons. The understanding of these consumption motives can be relevant for anthropological, social, preventive, therapeutic, harm reduction and/or policy-related reasons. Among various standardized questionnaires investigating about consumption motives, those derived from the Drinking Motives Questionnaire (e.g., Marijuana Motives Measure) are the most common used in research.

In the present study, 100 psilocybin users were asked about their motives for magic mushroom use via an online questionnaire, and the motives-profile then compared with data from similar studies concerning alcohol and cannabis use.

The comparison between cannabis and alcohol users revealed for the former especially social and enhancement motives, for the latter primarily social motives. Compared to cannabis and alcohol, psilocybin users listed the motives social, conformity, and coping considerably lower. Enhancement clearly stood out as the main motive.

Katrin Preller

PhD, Laboratory Head at the Pharmaco-Neuroimaging and Cognitive-Emotional Processing Research Group in University of Zurich, Visiting Assistant Professor at Yale University

Mechanisms of Action of Psychedelic Substances - Neurobiology and Therapeutic Implications

Psychedelic substances are currently being investigated for the treatment of a range of neuropsychiatric illnesses. However, the clinical mechanisms of action still remain unclear. This talk will provide an overview of the current state of knowledge on the effects of psychedelic substances on the brain and their potential relation to treatment efficacy. It will furthermore discuss how elucidating the clinical mechanisms of action can help advancing psychedelic-assisted therapy.

Sergio Pérez Rosal

Medical Doctor; Specialist in Anesthesia, Intensive Care, and Emergencies Cognitive Behavioral Psychotherapist in training Director of Quality and Training at OVID Health Systems MIND Academy Director

Standardization of ketamine-assisted therapy

The use of dissociative anesthetics like ketamine and esketamine has become popular in the field of psychiatry. There is a growing body of research validating its application in patients suffering from depression, anxiety, OCD, and even PTSD. However, treatment is not standardized. In most cases, the concept relies only on the pharmacological effects leaving out the importance and potential of combining psychotherapy with dosing sessions.

Based on recent findings on psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy and ketamine research, we have created a concept in which we combine the administration of an atypical psychedelic in sub-anesthetic levels with psychotherapeutic guidance and integration therapy. Our treatment plan harnesses the strengths of two proven methods and combines them, leading to a more significant effect than the sum of both approaches. With this approach, we can provide psychedelic experiences facilitated through ketamine with the same respect and therapeutic guidance as a serotonergic substance therapy.

Standardization of ketamine-assisted therapy rooted in the methodology used in high-level classic psychedelic therapy research could lead to safer therapy, more efficient, and significantly longer-lasting effects for a patient collective that has exhausted more established therapeutic models.

Friederike Holze

PhD, Post-Doc at Psychopharmacology Research group of Prof. M. Liechti at University of Basel

Characterization, distinction, and dosing of LSD

Classic psychedelics such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and psilocybin are back in research as potential treatment for various psychiatric and somatic disorders, e.g. depression, anxiety disorders and cluster headache. Modern experimental studies with psilocybin-assisted therapy for anxiety and depression show promising results. However, there are remaining questions regarding the distinction of psychedelics to stimulants and entactogens, the definition and characterization of microdoses and psychedelic doses, and dose equivalence of psilocybin and LSD. This talk covers data from four recent double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover trials in healthy volunteers. Findings are important for dose finding of LSD and the choice of substance in future research for substance- assisted therapy.

Vincent Verroust

Psychedelic Science Consultant, Science Historian, Ethnobiologist, Lead Coordinator of the French Psychedelic Society

"Will you give me again some of these mushrooms, doctor?" the experiments of Heim and Thévenard on healthy volunteers, Paris, 1959

Professor Roger Heim (1900 - 1979) was invited by the Wassons to participate in the multidisciplinary study of the Mexican divinatory mushrooms rediscovered in the early 1950s. He identified or described and named the species collected, developed their cultivation and enabled Albert Hofmann and his colleagues to isolate psilocybin and psilocin. After conducting experiments on himself, he worked on a documentary film on the hallucinogenic mushrooms in collaboration with Dr Thévenard of the Pasteur Institute. Vincent Verroust has recovered the film and proposes to screen and comment on the experiments carried out on healthy volunteers who agreed to consume Psilocybes mexicana in front of a camera, in Paris, in 1959, with a follow-up four years later. The filmed sequences illustrate the diversity of psychological reactions to psilocybin mushrooms as well as their medical, scientific and philosophical interest.

David Dupuis

PhD, social anthropologist & clinical psychologist, Quai Branly Museum (Paris) Research Fellow

Can psychedelics really change the world? Toward psychedelics technologies

Without denying the fact that psychedelics have their own effects embodied in their neuro-pharmacological properties, the psychedelic experience remains strongly shaped by the norms and values of the social groups of those who use them. Rather than opting for a seductive but angelic approach – seeing psychedelics as substances capable of “healing the world” – or a repressive approach based on the fear of seeing these substances become tools for “brain washing”, we must recognize what makes these substances unique among the large family of psychotropic drugs: their great sensitivity to extraphamarcological factors. I would explore in this talk the ethical, political and clinical issues of this remarkable property of hallucinogens in the context of the globalization of the use of these substances and the renaissance of the psychedelic research.

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