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Psychedelic injustice: should bioethics tune in to the voices of psychedelic-using communities?


Psychedelic compounds are regaining widespread interest due to emerging evidence surrounding their therapeutic effects. The controversial nature of these compounds highlights the need for extensive bioethical input to guide the process of medicalisation. To date there is no bioethics literature that consults the voices of psychedelic-using communities in order to help guide normative considerations of psychedelic medicalisation. In this paper I argue that psychedelic-using communities ought to be included in bioethical discussions that guide normative elements of psychedelic medicalisation. I argue this by presenting two points. First, psychedelic-using communities hold a degree of epistemic expertise regarding psychedelics by virtue of their embodied experiences with these compounds. Therefore, these communities are able to identify normative considerations that communities without embodied experiences would overlook. Second, psychedelic-using communities are uniquely and heavily affected by psychedelic medicalisation. Therefore, the needs of these communities ought to be considered when evaluating and implementing normative changes that alter psychedelic usage in society. The counterargument that psychedelic-using communities should not guide normative considerations of psychedelic medicalisation is presented by highlighting empirical data that suggest groups of the public with embodied experiences regarding a topic are less able to engage in deliberative reasoning on the said topic than the lay public. However, I propose that even if this is the case, psychedelic-using communities are owed consultation by agents of psychedelic medicalisation in order to undo and cease perpetuating epistemic injustice against these communities.

  • medical ethics/bioethics
  • health policy
  • psychiatry
  • psychology
  • patient narratives

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