Dune and the Second Coming of Psychedelics in the United States


What does the movie Dune say about our society’s current relationship with psychedelics?




Following a financially successful weekend opening, what might the movie Dune mean for our mental health? Most important may be the movie’s statement that whoever economically controls the psychedelic “spice” controls the future world. Then we add the confluence with the resurgence of interest in psychedelics, layered upon the common desire of humankind to take various mind altering substances.

What has led to the current second coming of psychedelics after they began to be criminalized not long after the novel Dune was published in 1965? From the psychiatric perspective, it seems to be the need to obtain more effective and safer medications after a couple of decades of stagnant psychopharmacology. This second era is illustrated by the article, “Shrooms! Shamans! Kosher LSD! Why Los Angeles Is Suddenly Tripping Out” in Los Angeles Magazine.1

In Dune, the psychedelic “spice” enhances various mind expanding functions, but apparently not our prior counterculture search for a loving spiritual awakening. Approved updated research on current psychedelics has shown that with proper dosage, set, and setting, there is unique promise for treating various difficult mental conditions. Moreover, lower and micro dosage is found to have nonpsychedelic benefits, including calmness, creativity, and, yes, maybe even enhanced connectivity.

Ketamine, an anesthetic that was found from recent off label trials to be uniquely helpful for clinical depression, seems to be a transitional psychedelic product. Different this time, too, is investor funding for such endeavors, but perhaps as we have now seen in both medicine and the movie, this is the kind of business control over health care ethics that we may have to be wariest about.

The mental health promise is surely here, but so is the peril.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues relate to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric TimesTM.


1. Kiefer P. Shrooms! Shamans! Kosher LSD! Why Los Angeles is suddenly tripping out. Los Angeles Magazine. October 21, 2021. Accessed October 25, 2021. https://www.lamag.com/citythinkblog/shrooms-shamans-kosher-lsd-why-los-angeles-is-suddenly-tripping-out/

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