Alcohol and drug addiction are major public health problems, and existing treatments are only moderately effective. Although there has been interest for over half a century in the therapeutic use of classic hallucinogens to treat addictions, clinical research with these drugs was halted at an early stage in the early 1970s, leaving many fundamental questions unanswered. In the past two decades, clinical research on classic hallucinogens has resumed, although addiction treatment trials are only now beginning. The purpose of this paper is to provide a targeted review of the research most relevant to the therapeutic potential of hallucinogens, and to integrate this information with current thinking about addiction and recovery. On the basis of this information, we present a heuristic model which organizes a number of hypotheses that may be tested in future research. We conclude that existing evidence provides a convincing rationale for further research on the effects of classic hallucinogens in the treatment of addiction. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.