Elizabeth Nielson

Elizabeth Nielson, PhD

New York University & Fluence

Psilocybin-Assisted Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder: Historical Context and Current Clinical Research


The use of classic psychedelics in the treatment of alcohol use disorder dates to Hoffer and Osmond’s work with LSD in Saskatchewan starting in 1953. Initially seen as a way to safely induce a delirium tremens-like experience, LSD was tested in clinical trials and used in treatment programs for thousands of patients through the early 1970s, resulting in substantial but inconclusive evidence for its effectiveness. With increasing restriction of access to psychedelics for reach purposes, LSD research ceased in the early 1970’s. 40 years later, research with psilocybin, a chemically similar but shorter acting and naturally occurring compound, has shown that psilocybin-assisted treatment of alcohol use disorder is feasible and potentially effective. This presentation gives an overview of the history of the use of classic psychedelics in the treatment of alcohol use disorder and discusses a completed open-label pilot and ongoing phase II double-blind trial. The psychotherapy model and structure of psilocybin sessions, possible mechanisms of action, and participants’ descriptions of the psilocybin experience from a qualitative study are included.


Elizabeth Nielson is a psychologist with a focus on developing psychedelic medicines as empirically supported treatments for PTSD, substance use problems, and mood disorders. Dr. Nielson is a therapist on FDA approved clinical trials of psilocybin-assisted treatment of alcohol use disorder, MDMA-assisted treatment PTSD, and psilocybin-assisted treatment of treatment resistant depression. Dr. Nielson sees clients in private practice for psychedelic integration and provides continuing education and training programs for therapists who wish to engage in integration of psychedelic experiences in clinical settings. Her program of research includes qualitative and mixed-methods projects designed to further understand the phenomenology and mechanisms of change in psychedelic-assisted therapy, including the experiences of trial participants and of the therapists themselves. She has published and presented on topics of psychedelic therapist training, therapists’ personal experience with psychedelics, and including psychedelic integration in group and individual psychotherapy.



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