Men who have used psychedelic drugs in the past are less likely to engage in violence against their intimate partners, according to a new Canadian study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. The researchers suggest this may be due to a better ability to manage negative emotions among hallucinogen users.
“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 study lead author Michelle Thiessen, a clinical psychology graduate student at the University of British Columbia (UBC) Okanagan Campus in Canada.
“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.”
Classic psychedelics include lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin (magic mushrooms), mescaline and dimethyltryptamine (DMT), all of which are known to act on serotonin receptors in the brain. The effects vary but can produce mystical experiences and changes in perception, emotion, cognition and one’s sense of self.
Classic psychedelics are not considered addictive.
“Previous research from our lab that looked at men in the criminal justice system found that hallucinogen users were substantially less likely to perpetrate violence against their intimate partners,” said UBC professor and supervising author Dr. Zach Walsh. “Our new study is important because it suggests that these effects might also apply to the general population.”
Thiessen, Walsh and colleagues Adele LaFrance and Brian Bird from Laurentian University based their findings on an anonymous online survey of 1,266 people recruited from universities and through social media. Participants were asked to disclose their lifetime use of LSD and psilocybin mushrooms and then fill out a questionnaire that evaluated several aspects of their emotion regulation.
“Past research found a clear association between psychedelic drug use and reduced partner violence, but the reasons for this effect remained unclear,” said Thiessen. “We found that better ability to manage negative emotions may help explain why the hallucinogen users were less violent.”