Since October 6, 1966, classical psychedelics, like LSD, psilocybin “magic” mushrooms, and DMT have been fighting an uphill battle. That was the day California Governor Pat Brown stood in front of thousands of people in Golden Gate Park and called LSD “a growing threat to society.” But now, nearly half a century later, research published Tuesday in the Journal of Psychopharmacology suggests the same psychedelics are less of a threat to a society — and might even be a way to improve it.
Let’s be clear, psychedelics are still a Schedule One drug in the United States: In some states, possession for personal use can land you up to 15 years in jail and a $3,000 fine. But these hefty penalties haven’t discouraged researchers from — completely legally, by the way — investigating the beneficial effects of classical psychedelics. In the new study, the team of Canadian authors show that, in males, a history of psychedelic drug use was inversely related to instances of physical violence against intimate partners. “Although use of certain drugs like alcohol, methamphetamine or cocaine is associated with increased aggression and partner violence, use of psychedelics appears to have the opposite effect,” said lead author and UBC Okanagan clinical psychology graduate student Michelle Thiessen in a statement published Tuesday. “We found that among men who have used psychedelics one or more times, the odds of engaging in partner violence was reduced by roughly half. That’s significant.”
Their work, they write, builds off a small but growing body of previous research showing that psychedelics show promise as “therapeutic adjuncts in the treatment of internalizing disorders (e.g. anxiety and mood problems).” Those ofof their survey of 1,266 men and women were consistent with those of a 2016 study showing a similar link between psychedelic use and violence on incarcerated men, but the new research is significant because it’s one of the first to investigate a connection between non-violent tendencies and psychedelics in a general population. The new connection, it’s important to note, can’t be classified as a casual one just yet — but it underscores the need for more research.
This body of research is promising for the future of psychedelics research, but it isn’t without its flaws. While the sample sizes of these studies tend to be large — this one had 1,266 participants and an earlier study published in October analyzed data from 480,000 individuals — the data are survey-based, which in turn requires people to self-report their own drug use over the course of their lifetimes. The criminal status of psychedelics aside, this can be a tall order for anyone.
In addition to that, respondents “were coded as psychedelic users if they reported one or more instances of using LSD and or psilocybin mushrooms in their lifetime.” That means one night of experimenting was enough to classify someone as a “psychedelic drug user.” Interestingly, they also found no significant effects of psychedelics on intimate partner violence in their female study participants.
Methods aside, the reputation of psychedelic drugs seems to be shifting. There is skepticism about previously mentioned violent instances related to drugs like ayahuasca and the biochemical effects produced by psychedelics like LSD has already figured prominently in drug development for conditions like schizophrenia so the drug is already well on its way to improving the upon the reputation it earned 50 years ago.