The Amazing Psychedelic Bamboozle

PsychroomNeuroskeptic writing in Discover Magazine:

‘Thirty-three brave volunteers took part in an experiment on the effects of psychedelic drugs on creativity. After passing rigorous medical screening, the volunteers were admitted to a specially prepared hospital room, where they were each given a 4 mg dose of a synthetic hallucinogen.

Within fifteen minutes or so, they began to feel the effects, including perceptual distortions mood changes, and sometimes anxiety. Several participants reported changes in experience stronger than those previously seen in people after moderate or high doses of LSD and other psychedelics.

Finally, after 3 and a half hours, the experiment was over and the effects had worn off. The lead experimenter gathered the volunteers together and announced that the whole thing had been an elaborate fake. The pills they had taken were only placebos.

This is the story reported in a lovely new paper published in Psychopharmacology from researchers Jay A. Olson of McGill university. It’s called Tripping on nothing: placebo psychedelics and contextual factors.

The paper describes how the researchers went to great lengths to create a believable appearance of a drug study, and thus facilitate the placebo effect….’

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