Finding Nuance in the Psychedelic Hype Bubble

Evan Lewis-Healey
5 min readSep 12, 2022

Some scientists argue we’re living through a psychedelic hype bubble, but are the claims of ground-breaking cure-alls starting to fade?

Photo by Fiona Art from Pexels

If you listen to psychedelic advocates there’s practically no mood disorder that psychedelics can’t cure. We’ve heard that psychedelics will “ revolutionize mental health” and bring new treatments for anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, eating disorders, traumatic brain injury, prolonged grief, autism, ADHD, and more.

We’re told that psilocybin mushrooms will be a “ magic bullet” for depression, and yet the largest psilocybin for depression study to date did not show a significant difference in efficacy between psilocybin and escitalopram (a leading antidepressant). We’re told that microdosing mushrooms will improve our mood and productivity, yet multiple studies to date indicate that perceived benefits from sub-threshold doses of psychedelics are indistinguishable from a placebo.

So far there have been no magic bullets and no mental health revolutions, just endless amounts of media hype. But is the psychedelic hype train coming to an end?

The Shroom Boom and the Hype Bubble

In July of this year, Bloomberg published an article stating that the market value for psychedelic drugs is set to more than double by 2028. Harking back fifteen years ago, it seemed unthinkable that an esteemed financial media company would be singing the praises of psychedelics, and touting them as a profitable investment opportunity.

However, as we’ve seen, the past decade has seen unprecedented attention, both from the public and from the private sector, regarding the potential of psychedelics. According to David Yaden and his colleagues from Johns Hopkins University, we are finding ourselves in a psychedelic hype bubble, and the bubble may be about to burst.

In a recent paper published in JAMA psychiatry, Yaden and his colleagues liken the psychedelic field to a hype cycle. Since the 1960s, attitudes towards psychedelics have been shaped by the war on drugs and international drug policy. A blanket ban on psychoactive drugs in 1971 led to decades of deeply rooted skepticism and fear-mongering of psychedelic substances.

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Evan Lewis-Healey

PhD candidate at Cambridge University. Studying the cognitive neuroscience of altered states of consciousness.