Psychedelic Therapy and Synthetic Alcohol – Future Treatments ?- Prof David Nutt

Posted on: June 14, 2019
Last Updated: September 21, 2020

David Nutt is currently the Edmond J. Safra Professor of Neuropsychopharmacology and director of the Neuropsychopharmacology Unit in the Division of Brain Sciences. In addition to several prestigious appointments in the past, David is currently Chair of DrugScience (formally the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD) and President of the European Brain Council. He has edited the Journal of Psychopharmacology for over two decades and acts as the psychiatry drugs advisor to the British National Formulary. David  broadcasts widely to the general public both on radio and television including BBC science and public affairs programs on therapeutic as well as illicit drugs, their harms and their classification.  He has published over 400 original research papers, a similar number of reviews and book chapters, eight government reports on drugs and 27 books.

Author Quotes: 

The bottom line is, the more you intervene the more people stay alive.

We are now, in Bristol, doing a trial of MDMA to treat alcoholics who drink because they’ve been traumatized, so we’re trying to deal with the underlying PTSD, which MDMA is a good treatment for.

Naltrexone promotes abstinence, but when people fail it does reduce drinking. An economic analysis of the impact of naltrexone shows that even if it fails to maintain abstinence, it reduces harm because it reduces the amount people drink…that in itself is justification for using it.

Summary and slides:  

In the second part of his presentation, Prof Nutt begins with a presentation of his research on nalmefene, a licensed drug that helps people control their drinking.  

He describes the methods employed to conduct the experiment with nalmefene, and how it appears to work by reducing the impact of alcohol on the dopamine system. Research by Rehm et al. is also presented

He discusses future prospects and early work on psychedelic drugs.

He concludes his presentation with a look at his ten-point plan for alcohol harm reduction which helps the individual control their drinking and the practitioner on how to reduce population drinking. 

Take-home Points: 

  • LSD has proven efficacy for alcoholism but we are unable to use it because it is illegal.   
  • A safer, synthetic alcohol has been made but maybe too politically challenging to ever be adopted by governments. 
  • Heavy drinking is drinking more than you should, and more than you need, and should be treated in a similar way to how we manage our weight and cholesterol for example. 


Learn more

  1. Illegal Drugs and the Analysis of Harms By Prof David Nutt
  2. MCDA data analysis to inform drug policy by Prof David Nutt
  3. Post-Multicriteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) analysis of drug-related harms – Prof David Nutt
  4. Alcohol – New Therapeutic Approaches and the Burden of Harm – Prof David Nutt
  5. Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) to evaluate drug-related outcomes By Prof David Nutt