Psychedelics 2021

A Year in Review

A five-part review of psychedelics in 2021: from drug policy reform and research highlights, to pop culture and controversy.

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Introductory Remarks

Given that Psilocybin Alpha was launched in Spring 2020, this past year marked our first full year of reporting on the psychedelics space. It’s also the first year that I was able to meet so many folks in person for the first time, which was a welcome change from Zoom.

These days I am increasingly reflecting on just how inappropriate the name Psilocybin Alpha has become. When I started writing about psychedelics nearly two years ago, psilocybin was at the forefront of clinical research into the ‘true’ psychedelics, and the subject of early investor interest. Today, psilocybin is just one of a whole host of molecules under investigation, with derivatives and entirely new chemical entities increasingly the subject of drug development efforts.

Just as the number of molecules under investigation has, well, mushroomed; so too have the ailments that researchers and drug developers seek to target. While neuropsychiatric diseases such as depression and PTSD represent a beachhead for psychedelic research, we’re increasingly seeing a move toward other areas of medicine that are also characterised by high unmet needs, such as neurodegenerative diseases. We should be cautious, however, with overstating the ‘promise’ of psychedelics to treat such diseases: while psychedelics appear to work in a transdiagnostic manner, much of the research is in early stages.

2021 brought a great deal of validation to psychedelic-assisted therapies, most notably via the stellar results of MAPS’ Phase 3 MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD study.

This psychedelic research is taking place amidst an increasingly warm context, which includes: federal grants in the U.S. and Australia; increased psychedelics production quotas in the U.S.; a fast-track designation for a DMT therapy in the UK; a flurry of new psychedelics research centres; Bills passed that mandate State-level research into psychedelics; amendments to Canada’s Special Access Programme and further Section 56 exemptions allowing access to psilocybin-assisted therapy; and many, many other positive signals.

But, just as we see outsized expectations from participants in clinical trials (which can lead to outsized disappointment among patients who fail to respond), we certainly saw high expectations of publicly-listed psychedelics stocks, which instead performed terribly this year. There is a clear disconnect between fundamentals, such as company news and data readouts, and stock prices, as investors struggle to value these unusual ventures. But, psychedelics startups continued to succeed in their fundraising efforts in 2021, with little signs of slowing.

As the psychedelics space continues to change in both size and composition, some have rightfully expressed concerns about new influences, such as the increasing attention paid to profitability and defensibility by psychedelics companies. Controversies have also emerged from more established sides of the psychedelic ecosystem, with sexual abuse allegations surfacing long overdue conversations.

In this review series, we’ll look at a number of key areas of activity for psychedelics in 2021, before sharing some trends and events to keep an eye on in 2022. Of course, this is not exhaustive: either in content, or in terms of the voices represented. As always, we welcome your comments.

Josh Hardman Psilocybin Alpha

Josh Hardman

Founder and Editor


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Psychedelic Research & Clinical Trials in 2021

We take a look at some of 2021's key publications and trial readouts, as well as taking stock of the broader context for psychedelic research.

Psychedelic Company Highlights in 2021

It was a volatile year for psychedelics companies, but many secured substantial levels of funding despite poor public markets performance. We review some of the key moments for psychedelics companies in 2021.

Psychedelic Perceptions in 2021: Popular Culture & Controversy

As psychedelics continued to attract mainstream attention in 2021, a number of controversies emerged: from the 'patent wars' to allegations of sexual abuse.

Looking Ahead to a Psychedelic 2022

We share the trends and events we'll be watching closely in 2022.

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