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Psychedelic Drugs Tied to Reduction in Antisocial Criminal Behavior

New research suggests that some psychedelic drugs such as magic mushrooms, LSD, and mescaline are associated with a decreased likelihood of antisocial criminal behavior.

Dr. Zach Walsh, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia-Okanagan, co-authored the study.

“These findings add to a growing body of research suggesting that use of classic psychedelics may have positive effects for reducing antisocial behavior,” said Walsh. “They certainly highlight the need for further research into the potentially beneficial effects of these stigmatized substances for both individual and public health.”

Lead author Dr. Peter Hendricks of the University of Alabama used data obtained by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health to explore the connection between the use of classic psychedelic substances and criminal behavior among more than 480,000 American adult respondents from the past 13 years.

The study appears in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

In their review, the investigators discovered that respondents who have used psychedelic drugs had 27 percent decreased odds of larceny or theft, and 22 percent decreased odds of arrest for a violent crime in the past year.

At the same time, lifetime use of other illicit substances was generally associated with increased odds of criminal behavior.

Hendricks says that psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms, and related compounds could revolutionize the mental health field.

“The development of innovative and effective interventions to prevent criminal behavior is an obvious priority,” Hendricks adds.

“Our findings suggest the protective effects of classic psychedelic use are attributable to genuine reductions in antisocial behavior rather than reflecting improved evasion of arrest. Simply put, the positive effects associated with classic psychedelic use appear to be reliable. Given the costs of criminal behavior, the potential represented by this treatment paradigm is significant.”

Walsh points out that research on the benefits of psychedelic drugs started decades ago, primarily to treat mental illness.

However, it was stopped due to the reclassification of the drugs to controlled substances in the mid-1970s. Recent years have seen a resurgence of interest in psychedelic medicine.

“More research is needed to figure out what factors underlie these effects,” Walsh says.

“But the experiences of unity, positivity, and transcendence that characterize the psychedelic experience may have lasting benefits that translate into real-world consequences.”

Source: University of British Columbia

Psychedelic Drugs Tied to Reduction in Antisocial Criminal Behavior

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Psychedelic Drugs Tied to Reduction in Antisocial Criminal Behavior. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 20, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 24 Oct 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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