History of Psychedelics in Uruguay
Since the 1990s we have been witnessing what some researchers call the “renaissance of psychedelic studies” in the field of scientific research. Academics from all over the world are currently investigating different substances (for example psilocybin, ibogaine, ayahuasca, MDMA), for clinical uses of conditions such as depression, addictions, post-traumatic stress, among others. This is a revival of the psychedelic agenda, since between 1950 and until the 1970s were banned these substances, a considerable number of researchers dedicated themselves to studying them, after Albert Hofmann discovered LSD.
In the early days of the psychedelic agenda, psychopharmacology was not developed as we know it today, and psychoanalysis was the most influential current in the psychiatric field. Under the interpretive framework of psychoanalysis, “hallucinogens” aroused a strong interest as quick access routes to the unconscious. But this does not mean that there was only one approach. On the contrary, the therapeutic settings were very varied, and the use of psychedelics led to various therapeutic strategies. Delay and Pichot’s “oneiroanalysis”, Arnold Ludwig’s “hypnodelic treatment”, Humprhy Osmond’s “psychedelic therapy”, Hanscarl Leuner’s “psycholytic therapy”, are some examples of names that the clinical use of psychedelics had at that time.
In the Río de la Plata, Argentine and Uruguayan psychiatrists were not strangers to these novel methods. In the Buenos Aires of the 1950s, renowned psychoanalysts such as Enrique Pichon-Riviere, José Bleger, and Alberto Fontana published articles and books on what they called “narcoanalysis”, reflecting on the usefulness of LSD for transference work and the time of duration of psychotherapy. In Montevideo, the psychiatrists Mario Berta, Ariel Duarte Troitiño, Hugo Silvera Galasso, Juan Pedro Severino and Esteban Gaspar proposed the method of “directed psycholysis”, combining psychedelic substances and psychodynamic therapy. This part of the history of psychedelics in our country has been very little studied.
Our research group intends to reconstruct the history of clinical studies in Uruguay. Based on it, it will be much easier for us to think about the role of psychedelics today, and their future in their possible therapeutic applications.