Evidence versus expectancy: the development of psilocybin therapy

James J. Rucker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although the development of psilocybin therapy has come as a surprise to many, modern research with the drug has been ongoing for 25 years. Psilocybin therapy is composed of psilocybin dosing sessions embedded within a wider process of psychoeducation, psychological support and integration. Early phase clinical trial evidence is promising, particularly for treatment-resistant depression. However, masking probably fails and expectancy effects may be a part of the mechanism of change. Disambiguating between drug and expectancy effects is a necessary part of the development process, yet this is difficult if masking fails. Hitherto, masking and expectancy have not been routinely measured in psilocybin or other medication trials. Doing so represents an opportunity for research and may influence psychiatry more widely. In this opinion piece I summarise the clinical development process of psilocybin therapy thus far, discussing the hope, the hype, the challenges and the opportunities along the way.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBJPsych Bulletin
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 May 2023


  • clinical trials
  • depressive disorders
  • individual psychotherapy
  • Psilocybin
  • psychedelics


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