Exploring Hallucinogen Pharmacology and Psychedelic Medicine with Zebrafish Models

Zebrafish. 2016 Oct;13(5):379-90. doi: 10.1089/zeb.2016.1251. Epub 2016 Mar 22.


After decades of sociopolitical obstacles, the field of psychiatry is experiencing a revived interest in the use of hallucinogenic agents to treat brain disorders. Along with the use of ketamine for depression, recent pilot studies have highlighted the efficacy of classic serotonergic hallucinogens, such as lysergic acid diethylamide and psilocybin, in treating addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety. However, many basic pharmacological and toxicological questions remain unanswered with regard to these compounds. In this study, we discuss psychedelic medicine as well as the behavioral and toxicological effects of hallucinogenic drugs in zebrafish. We emphasize this aquatic organism as a model ideally suited to assess both the potential toxic and therapeutic effects of major known classes of hallucinogenic compounds. In addition, novel drugs with hallucinogenic properties can be efficiently screened using zebrafish models. Well-designed preclinical studies utilizing zebrafish can contribute to the reemerging treatment paradigm of psychedelic medicine, leading to new avenues of clinical exploration for psychiatric disorders.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / drug effects
  • Hallucinogens / pharmacology*
  • Models, Animal
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / metabolism*
  • Zebrafish / metabolism*


  • Hallucinogens
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations