UAE Explores Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy: Insights from Recent Conferences

Recent conferences held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), particularly in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, have ignited discussions surrounding the potential of psychedelic-assisted therapy, featuring renowned speakers like Rick Doblin, PhD from The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and Jesse Gould of Heroic Hearts Project. These gatherings, as per a March 6 press release, delved into various topics including MDMA-assisted therapy, ketamine, psilocybin, and more, signaling a progressive shift in the country’s stance on drug-related issues.

Key players such as the Energia Foundation and Tabula Rasa Ventures, recognized for introducing psychedelic education at Davos in 2022, have been instrumental in fostering understanding about psychedelic-assisted therapy in the UAE. Over the past 14 months, their efforts have focused on educating policymakers, sovereign wealth funds, and clinicians in the UAE about the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.

The 4th Abu Dhabi Integrated Mental Health conference, co-hosted by the Energia Foundation in January 2024, featured discussions led by esteemed individuals like Rick Doblin and Dr. Rasheed Al Hammadi, Director of the Department of Health in Abu Dhabi. This event underscored ongoing research efforts and potential regulatory shifts regarding psychedelic therapies in the UAE.

Marik Hazan, Executive Director of the Energia Foundation, commended the UAE’s receptiveness to psychedelic education, hailing it as a forward-thinking and scientifically rigorous approach. The collaborative support received from various institutions reflects a growing acknowledgment of the therapeutic benefits offered by psychedelic-assisted therapy.

Anticipation looms over the potential approval of MDMA-assisted therapy by the FDA in the United States, with the UAE positioned as a potential adopter of this innovative treatment. Given the nation’s progressive health policies, it could emerge as a leading proponent of psychedelic therapies, driven by collaborative endeavors between US-based psychedelic groups and the UAE’s health authorities.

The UAE’s evolving drug policies reflect a broader shift towards reform. Recent legislative changes, including the Federal Decree Law no. 30 of 2021, signal a departure from punitive measures towards drug abuse, emphasizing a health-centric approach. Despite the historical strictness regarding drug offenses, the country is witnessing a transformative shift, embracing novel approaches to mental health treatments.

Conferences like the Dialogues in Mental Health, held in Dubai in June 2023, mark pivotal moments in the region’s healthcare landscape, showcasing a willingness to explore unconventional therapeutic avenues. Supported by prominent entities like the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA) and the Department of Health (DoH), these initiatives highlight the UAE’s commitment to pioneering healthcare solutions and fostering innovation in mental health treatment.

As awareness grows and discussions continue, the UAE stands poised to play a significant role in shaping the future of psychedelic-assisted therapy, offering hope for addressing pressing mental health challenges through innovative and holistic approaches.


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