Hallucinogens such as LSD or psilocybin (the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms) appear to have significant therapeutic potential for reducing intimate partner violence (IPV), according to a new study.
While some types of drugs and substance use, particularly alcohol, have been linked to increased domestic violence, hallucinogens have a completely different effect on users, causing people to behave more peacefully and compassionately.
Each year, more than 12 million people are victims of IPV in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One in every three women worldwide has experienced IPV at some point in her lifetime, according to the American Psychology Association.
Therefore, identifying both the risk and protective factors for IPV is an important goal for public health research, say the investigators.
“A body of evidence suggests that substances such as psilocybin may have a range of clinical indications,” said Associate Professor Peter S. Hendricks, Ph.D., from the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
“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. Often, people are struck by the realization that behaving with compassion and kindness toward others is high on the list of what matters.”
Hendricks, along with researchers from the University of British Columbia, evaluated the data of 302 men ages 17-40 in the criminal justice system. Of the 56 percent of participants who reported using hallucinogens, only 27 percent were arrested for later IPV as opposed to 42 percent of the group who reported no hallucinogen use being arrested for IPV within seven years.
From the 1950s through the early 1970s, thousands of studies reported on the medical use of hallucinogens, mostly LSD. However, due to the classification of the most prominent hallucinogens as Schedule I controlled substances in 1970, research on health benefits was suspended, causing many of these studies to be abandoned and forgotten.
In recent times, however, research with hallucinogens has experienced a rebirth as their benefits are hard to ignore.
“Recent studies have shown that psilocybin and related compounds could revolutionize the mental health field,” Hendricks said. “However, additional research is needed. This study suggests that hallucinogens could be a useful avenue for reducing IPV, meaning this topic deserves further attention.”