Bibliography: Psychedelics and Psychology

Building on our recent bibliographic histories of LSD and marijuana, we now offer a more general bibliography of the use of various deliriants, hallucinogens, and psychedelics in the history of psychology.

Curiously, however, there are several histories missing from the literature.  For example: 2C-B, DMT, DOM, mescaline, phencyclidine (PCP), and scopolamine are all mentioned in related discussions but don’t seem to have any peer-reviewed histories of their own.

The changing uses and descriptions of these substances also provide an interesting perspective of an evolving discipline.  Yet, since history has a way of repeating itself when forgotten, the emergence of a renewed interest in psychedelic research provides a pragmatic reason to look back at our past.

Perhaps there is still wisdom to be found on the dusty shelves of our oft-forgotten libraries.  Those interested should open those doors to perception, since most others are now barred.

General histories:

  • De Morsier, G.  (1966).  A study of hallucinations: History, doctrines, problems: I. Hallucinations and cerebral pathology.  Journal de Psychologie Normale et Pathologique, 66(3), 281-317.

The history of the study of hallucinations begins in the 17th Century, when physiological causes were believed responsible. In the 19th Century, Aristotle’s concept of the faculties of the soul was used, in that alteration of these faculties was the cause of hallucinations. Next came the doctrine concerning the influence of passions and instincts followed by the mental automatism of Clerambault. The author described his work, published in 1928, concerning the experimental production of psychiatric syndromes by hallucinogens hashish and peyote. Moreover, among physiological causes of hallucinations the following are mentioned: the work of DeBiermer on anemia and pellagra, brain accidents that cause traumatic schizophrenia, and other injuries with their attendant physiological and behavioral syndromes.

  • Fadiman, J., Grob, C., Bravo, G., Agar, A., & Walsh, R.  (2003).  Psychedelic research revisited.  Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 35(2), 111-125.

In the two decades before the government banned human subjects studies in the mid 1960s, an enormous amount of research was done on psychedelics. These studies hold far reaching implications for our understanding of diverse psychological, social, and religious phenomena. With further research all but legally impossible, this makes the original researchers a unique and invaluable resource, and so they were interviewed to obtain their insights and reflections. One of these researchers was James Fadiman, who subsequently became a co-founder of the Association for Transpersonal Psychology and the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology. Discussion topics include his research studies and personal experiences, the founding, nature and purpose of transpersonal psychology, social effects of, and responses to, psychedelics, and religious freedom.

  • Gouzoulis-Mayfrank, E., Hermle, L., Thelen, B., & Sass, H.  (1998).  History, rationale and potential of human experimental hallucinogenic drug research in psychiatry.  Pharmacopsychiatry, 31(Suppl 2), 63-68.

Systematic scientific interest in psychedelic substances has a tradition of about 100 yrs. Numerous human experimental studies have confirmed the existence of a common nucleus of experiences in hallucinogen-induced states and the acute stages of schizophrenic psychoses. However, the degree of resemblance between endogenous and drug-induced psychotic states has been an issue of controversial debate. After the scheduling of psychedelics in the 1960s, human research became highly restricted worldwide and scientific interest in this field faded. The debate about the appropriateness of the psychedelic state as a model for endogenous psychosis therefore seemed to have little practical relevance. Currently there is a revival of scientific interest in human experimental psychedelic research. Consequently. the appropriateness of hallucinogen-induced states as models for psychosis needs to be reappraised. The arguments for and against are summarized in this paper. In conclusion, the drug-induced model psychosis is shown to be a useful model for acute psychotic stages, but not for the nosological entity schizophrenia.

  • Sessa, B.  (2005).  Can psychedelics have a role in psychiatry once again?.  British Journal of Psychiatry, 186(6), 457-458.

Psychedelic or hallucinogenic drugs such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), 3,4,5-trimethoxy-?-phenethylamine (mescaline), psilocybin, 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and their relations occur in abundance throughout the natural world, and have been used by humankind for thousands of years. In some cultures they are important tools for spiritual experiences, whereas in others they are labeled as dangerous drugs of misuse. What is less well known about these substances is the role they played in psychiatry for a brief historical interval. This article offers a short overview of this period and questions whether interest in these compounds might be emerging again.

See also:

  • Stahl, P. W.  (1985).  The hallucinogenic basis of early Valdivia phase ceramic bowl iconography.  Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 17(2), 105-123.

Contends that the genesis of at least part of Valdivia ceramic art, since its earliest appearance in coastal Ecuador, may be found within eidetic imagery associated with hallucination. Artistic expression found in the early Valdivia phase (3500-2400 B.C.) is illustrated from 4 sites. Discussed are approaches to the analysis and interpretation of ceramic bowl iconography and hallucinogenic agents within the cultural and ritual life of ethnographically documented tropical forest cultures. 

  • Dobkin de Rios, M.  (1982).  Plant hallucinogens, sexuality and shamanism in the ceramic art of ancient Peru.  Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 14(1-2), 81-90.

Examines a corpus of ceramic art among coastal Peruvian societies that focuses on the display of sexual themes. These ceramics are shown to be linked to hallucinogenic plant use by shamans who functioned as “psychopomps” and political figures in their respective societies. Shamans depended on hallucinogenic brews to consolidate their political and psychological powers and to facilitate their control over natural phenomena (e.g., the fecundity of animal species and the fertility of the land and sea). They also used plant hallucinogens for the powers that enabled them to transform a powerful familiar (animal) to do their bidding, to kill enemies by means of witchcraft, to foresee the future, and to take on the protective coloration of the microorganisms in the earth or sea to ensure fertility. 

Atropine bibliography.

  • Gazdag, G., Bitter, I., Ungvári, G., & Gerevich, J.  (2005).  Atropine coma: A historical note.  Journal of ECT, 21(4), 203-206.

Insulin coma and various types of convulsive therapies were the major biologic treatment modalities in psychiatry before the psychopharmacological era. Except for electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), these methods disappeared from the psychiatric armamentarium after the introduction of psychotropic drugs. Atropine coma therapy (ACT) was one variety of nonconvulsive coma therapy used from the 1950s in a few state mental hospitals in the United States and in several Middle- and Eastern European countries until the late 1970s. In ACT, a coma of 6-10 hours’ duration was induced with doses of parenteral atropine sulfate that were hundreds of times greater than the therapeutic dose administered in internal medicine. Although ACT was given to thousands of patients with a variety of diagnoses for nearly 3 decades, it is rarely mentioned, even in papers on the history of psychiatry. The method, indications, contraindications and adverse effects of ACT are summarized together with patients’ personal accounts. Hypotheses concerning its mode of action are briefly mentioned. The reasons why ACT never gained wider acceptance are explored in the context of both contemporary psychiatric practice and the broader sociocultural climate of the era.

  • Malcolm, M. T.  (1999).  Morphine withdrawal, treatments 1900-30.  History of Psychiatry, 10(37, Pt 1), 13-26.

Discusses treatments used between 1900-1930 for morphine withdrawal. The accounts are mainly taken from contemporary textbooks which contain descriptions of their authors’ preferred methods and criticisms of regimes given by other therapists. Delirium, produced by atropine or similar substances, is advocated to cover withdrawal symptoms. The present paper draws parallels with current issues, such as withdrawal of opiate under cover of general anesthesia, follow-up studies, and cost-benefit analyses. The particular problems of addicted doctors in 1900-1930 are addressed as are the comparisons then made with non-medically qualified addicts. The author suggests that it is important to keep in mind past mistakes and over-valued ideas so as to reduce any similarly misplaced optimism in our current treatment options.

Ayahuasca bibliography.

  • Rodd, R.  (2002).  Snuff synergy: Preparation, use and pharmacology of Yopo and Banisteriopsis Caapi among the Piaroa of southern Venezuela.  Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 34(3), 273-279.

Current understanding of the preparation and use of yopo, a hallucinogenic snuff made from the ground seeds of the Anadenanthera peregrinan tree, has departed little from the accounts of scientists and travelers made over a century ago. While several scholars have drawn attention to the fact that little ethnographic work has been conducted to assess the ethnobotanical diversity and cultural framework of the snuff hallucinogen complex, few subsequent studies deal with botanical variations in preparation and use. This article contrasts historical accounts of yopo preparation with ethnographic data the author has recently collected among the Piaroa of southern Venezuela to demonstrate one way in which yopo preparation and use deviates from the basic model established by A. Humboldt et al. Piaroa shamans include Banisteriopsis caapi cuttings in the preparation of yopo and consume doses of Banisteriopsis caapi prior to snuff inhalation concomitant with the strength of visions desired for particular tasks. The author argues that the combined use of yopo and Banisteriopsis caapi by Piaroa shamans is pharmacologically and ethnobotanically significant, and substantiates claims of the use of admixtures in snuff.

MDMA bibliography.

  • Martínez, P. A. S., González, P. G.-P., Ojanguren, B. P., & García, J. B.  (2003).  Evolución histórica del uso y abuso de MDMA. / Historical development of MDMA use and abuse.  Adicciones, 15(Suppl 2), 35-49.

MDMA (ecstasy) has undoubtedly been the most popular recreational drug during the last decade. In spite of its having been synthesised in 1912 it was not employed as a drug by different groups in the United States until the end of the seventies (students, yuppies, gays, and new agers). In 1985 it was included in List I of the American Comprehensive Substances Act, and in 1986, the WHO included it in List I of the Psychotropic Convention. Its greater spread on a worldwide bases has been associated with specific musical and recreational subcultures. In Spain, its spread has been over 5 different phases: previous phase (1978-1986), initial phase (1987-1989), popularity phase (1990-1991), phase of common use and massive consumption (1992-1996), and routine and end of cycle or stabilisation phase (1997). During the last few years a considerable interest has been shown by international and national organisations to begin joint actions in order to know the real epidemiological magnitude of the phenomenon, its consequences on health, and the development of preventive actions to ameliorate the potential risks associated with its consumption.

  • Pentney, A. R.  (2001).  An exploration of the history and controversies surrounding MDMA and MDA.  Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 33(3), 213-221.

Argues that in existence for nearly a century, 3.4-methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA) and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, “Ecstasy”) have gained quite a reputation. Perceived by some as dangerous neurotoxins, and by others as potential psychotherapeutics, these compounds have become a center of controversy among academics and law enforcement officials, and in the process have gained extensive media exposure. The classification of these drugs as illicit, controlled substances in the United States has not prevented their use, and MDMA, or Ecstasy, is currently one of the most popular substances used recreationally in North America. The scheduling of MDMA and MDA has, however, led to the distribution of contaminated, or falsely represented, Ecstasy tablets, and prevented responsible research into the detrimental and therapeutic effects of these drugs. A look at the history of these compounds suggests that they have the potential to be used safely as psychotherapeutic tools, and that the legal status of MDMA and MDA may be worth reconsidering.

See also:

  • Elk, C.  (1996).  MDMA (Ecstacy): Useful information for health professionals involved in drug education programs.  Journal of Drug Education, 26(4), 349-356.

Provides a brief history of 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA; “Ecstacy”), a summation of current findings, and implications for including MDMA in drug education. MDMA is an amphetamine derivative that is related chemically to both amphetamines and hallucinogens. Information related to dosage, negative and positive physiological effects (including possible irreversible neurotoxicity), type of user, and therapeutic aspects is given. The age range for recreational users appears to be from 16-48 yrs, and the most frequently reported reasons for taking the drug are curiosity, fun, for experimental reasons, and for recreational purposes. It is suggested that including discussion of some of the consistent data gathered thus far in drug education programs can only assist students in becoming more aware of the dangers of taking such a drug, and possibly deter their initial or future use. 

  • Gold, M. S. & Tabrah, H.  (2000).  Update on the Ecstasy epidemic.  Journal of Addictions Nursing, 12(3-4), 133-142.

Notes that interest in the drug Ecstasy, by users, researchers, educators and policy makers, has increased considerably. The increase in use and potential dangers associated with Ecstasy has led to mainstream media coverage and scientific investigations. Recreational use is increasing, especially among teens and young adults. Researchers continue to study the side effects of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), the chemical compound from which Ecstasy was named. This article provides an updated review of Ecstasy: its history, epidemiology, pharmacology, subjective effects, dangerous effects, neurobiology and MDMA detection. It is argued that, given the potential for dangerous and lethal outcomes, the increase in MDMA use should be of national concern.

Psilocybin bibliography.

  • McDonald, A.  (1980).  Mushrooms and madness: Hallucinogenic mushrooms and some psychopharmacological implications.  The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 25(7), 586-594.

Reviews the major hallucinogenic fungi both for their historical as well as neurochemical import. However, little research has focused on psilocybin related substances that could relate to forms of psychotic illness. Some metabolic pathways are reviewed that illustrate the need for more study of indole compounds such as baeocystin.


About Jeremy Burman

Jeremy Trevelyan Burman is a senior doctoral student in York University’s Department of Psychology, specializing in the history of developmental psychology and its theory (especially that pertaining to Jean Piaget). Prior to returning to academia, he was a producer at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.