According to a study published in Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, a bizarre link has been made between psychedelic drugs and of all things, the trauma of racial injustice.
Researchers at Ohio State University were able to demonstrate psychedelic drugs like psilocybin or Magic Mushrooms, LSD, or MDMA may help reduce stress, depression and anxiety symptoms in Black, Indigenous and people of color whose encounters with racism.
The human participants of the retrospective study indicated that their anxiety and depression related to prejudice were decreased in the 30 days following a psychedelic experience.
Their experience with psychedelic drugs was so powerful that they could recall and report on changes in symptoms from racial trauma that they had experienced in their lives, and they remembered it having a significant reduction in their mental health problems afterward, said Alan Davis, co-lead author of the study and an assistant professor of social work at The Ohio State University.
Psychedelics are a hallucinogenic class of drug whose primary effect is to activate a non-ordinary state of consciousness via serotonin. This causes psychological, visual and auditory changes, and sometimes a substantially altered state of consciousness.
The psychedelic experience is often compared to non-ordinary states of consciousness such as those encountered in meditation, spiritual experiences, and near-death experiences. In the experience, the sense of self is often momentarily lost, or transcended.
"It was found that profound spiritual experiences, made in combination with psychedelics, resulted in substantial PTSD symptom reductions.
Psychedelics have a role in therapy particularly when delivered in a controlled environment. What recent mental health research has traditionally missed is a focus on people of color and on care directly addressing the trauma of prolonged exposure to racism.
Davis and Williams conducted the report which they say helps shed light on psychiatric conditions.
"Not everybody experiences every form of racial trauma, but certainly people of color are experiencing a lot of these different types of discrimination on a regular basis", said Davis, who also is an adjunct faculty member in the Johns Hopkins University Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research. "So in addition to depression and anxiety, we were asking whether participants had symptoms of race-based PTSD."
Participants were also asked to reflect on the strength of three common forms of experiences that people have under the influence of psychedelic drugs: mystical, insightful, or challenging experience. Mystical experience may feel like a spiritual connection to the divine, insightful experience enhances people's knowledge and comprehension of themselves, and challenging experience.
All participants remembered their anxiety, depression and stress symptoms after a memorable psychedelic experience being lower than they had been before the medication was used. The extent of the positive effects of psychedelics affected their reduction of symptoms.
The researchers noted that the study had limitations since the results were focused on participant memory and the entire group of participants identified benefits they associated with their psychedelic experience—meaning it cannot be concluded that LSD would support all people of color with racial trauma. Davis and Williams are working on a proposal to research the impact of psychedelics on particular ethnic groups.
"This was really the first step in exploring whether people of color are experiencing benefits of psychedelics and, in particular, looking at a relevant feature of their mental health, which is their experience of racial trauma", Davis said. "This study helps to start that conversation with this emerging treatment paradigm."