Why MDMA and 'Shrooms Are Potential Major Tools to Fight Domestic Violence

Psychedelics such as LSD, MDMA, and magic mushrooms have been undergoing a renaissance as scientists explore their positive effects on a range of illnesses and conditions from PTSD to end of life anxiety. Now, researchers from the University of British Columbia at Okanagan have released findings suggesting that the mind-benders could help reduce domestic violence among men with substance abuse problems and histories of violence.

In their observational study, published last week in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, they followed 302 Illinois county jail inmates aged between 17 and 40 for an average of six years after they were released. All of the subjects were serving sentences of a year or less, and all had histories of substance abuse. Nearly three out of four (72 percent) of them also had prior charges for violent crimes.

While in jail, the subjects were interviewed about their history of psychedelic use. Nearly nine out of 10 (87 percent) of those who had used psychedelics had used more than one of the more well-known drugs, such as acid, ecstasy, and 'shrooms.

The researchers then tracked the prisoners after their release from jail, using U.S. law enforcement databases, including FBI data to monitor arrests for domestic violence. What they found was that while 27 percent of prisoners who had used psychedelics were arrested within six years for domestic violence, that figure jumped to 42 percent among those who had not used psychedelics.

"While not a clinical trial, this study, in stark contrast to prevailing attitudes that views these drugs as harmful, speaks to the public health potential of psychedelic medicine. As existing treatments for intimate partner violence are insufficient, we need to take new perspectives such as this seriously," said Assoc. Prof. Zach Walsh, co-director for UBC Okanagan's Center for the Advancement of Psychological Science and Law and co-author of the study.

"Intimate partner violence is a major public health problem and existing treatments to reduce reoffending are insufficient," he added. "With proper dosage, set, and setting we might see even more profound effects. This definitely warrants further research."

The study was co-authored by University of Alabama Assoc. Prof. Peter Hendricks, who predicted that psilocybin and related compounds could revolutionize the mental health field.

"Although we're attempting to better understand how or why these substances may be beneficial, one explanation is that they can transform people's lives by providing profoundly meaningful spiritual experiences that highlight what matters most," says Hendricks. "Often, people are struck by the realization that behaving with compassion and kindness toward others is high on the list of what matters."

Researchers delved into the benefits of psychedelics from the 1950s to the 1970s, particularly to treat mental illness and alcoholism, but the official reaction to the increasing popularization of the drugs in the late 1960s led to them being classified as controlled substances, which brought the research to a screeching halt. But recent years have seen a resurgence of interest in psychedelic medicine. And the potential for more breakthroughs is high.

"The experiences of unity, positivity, and transcendence that characterize the psychedelic experience may be particularly beneficial to groups that are frequently marginalized and isolated, such as the incarcerated men who participated in this study," said Walsh.


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