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MAPS Bulletin Winter 2013: 2013 Annual Report
Media > Recent and Archival
January 23, 2014

Psychedelics Help Keep People From Returning To Prison: Study

By: Katie Rucke

Mint Press News

Mint Press News shares the results of a new academic study analyzing the connection between psychedelic drug use and reduced criminal behavior. According to the researchers, the results suggest that psychedelics “may promote alcohol and other drug abstinence and prosocial behavior in a population with high rates of recidivism.”  Brad Burge of MAPS also gives commentary on the political history of drugs. “The legal status of drugs has historically had no relationship to scientific evidence about their risks,” he points out. “MAPS and other organizations in the psychedelic science field are changing that.”

Originally appearing here.

Psychedelic drug use can help people stay out of prison, according to a study published in the January issue of the Journal of Pharmacology by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Examining more than 25,000 people who have a history of drug use and were enrolled in Treatment Accountability for Safer Communities programs from 2002 to 2007, the study found that those who used hallucinogenic drugs were “less likely to violate TASC rules or other requirements, less likely to fail to appear in court, and less likely to be incarcerated.”

“Our results suggest that hallucinogens may promote alcohol and other drug abstinence and prosocial behavior in a population with high rates of recidivism,” the researchers said. “Offenders may be especially likely to benefit from hallucinogen treatment because involvement in the criminal justice system often results from drug-seeking behavior and impulse conduct exacerbated by compulsive substance use.”

Since use of psychedelic substances has often been linked to criminal behavior, some psychedelic-legalization advocates have pointed to the research as further evidence to legalize the drugs. But researchers responded by saying that their findings should “not at all be interpreted as advocating for recreational hallucinogen use.”

However, they added that their findings illustrate a need for further research into the benefits of psychedelic drugs.

Brad Burge, director of communications and marketing for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, told MintPress that while he hasn’t been able to review the study himself yet, based on what he knows about how people use psychedelics, the drugs may have the ability to keep some people interested in socializing and away from using other addictive drugs and alcohol by helping people “overcome addiction to other drugs, or avoid addiction in the first place.”

Bottom line, Burge said psychedelics could be helpful because “they are in communities that avoid harder, more addictive drugs like opiates and cocaine …”

Even those who were classified as having a hallucinogen disorder, which Burge says is how mainstream professionals refer to use and abuse of psychedelics, were found to be more successful in their attempt to rejoin society.

Although one percent of the participants were diagnosed as having a hallucinogen use disorder in the program, the researchers found that despite extraneous factors such as race, employment, marital status, age, criminal history, gender, and other institutionalized factors, those classified as abusing psychedelics still fared better than those who were heavy users of cocaine, marijuana and alcohol.
Psychedelic research

The study is reportedly the first in 40 years that examined the impact psychedelic drugs have on reforming criminal behavior, but is far from the first examining positive and therapeutic benefits the drugs can offer.

One of the first reports that found a medicinal benefit for psychedelic drugs was published more than 70 years ago by the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann. He discovered that LSD has compounds that would possibly treat psychological ailments, and after reviewing the results, psychiatrist Humphrey Osmond called the drugs “psychedelic,” which comes from a Greek word that means “mind-revealing.”

While researchers became highly interested in studying the benefits of psychedelics during the 1950s, after it was discovered that the drugs could be used to help treat a number of medical conditions such as alcoholism and drug addiction, research was halted in the 1970s when psychedelics were outlawed under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

Though the classification as Schedule I substances initially shut down many studies on psychedelics by the early 1970s, there were already more than 1,000 research papers that found psychedelic drugs could be used to treat psychological disorders, along with 40,000 patients with a range of psychological disorders who were willing to testify how the drugs had helped them.

“Psychedelics were linked to criminal behavior and mental illness when they first emerged into the public spotlight in the 1960s and 1970s,” Burge said.

“Conservative cultural forces, including mass media and elected officials of the era, intentionally linked psychedelics to the radical political reform movements in order to sideline and, through criminal sanctions including the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, incarcerate the participants of those movements.”

Use of psychedelic drugs such as LSD or acid, psilocybin mushrooms, mescaline, ibogaine, salvia and DMT have been used to help those suffering from mental health and psychological conditions for years, yet the use of psychedelics is less accepted than medical marijuana.

But like marijuana, psychedelics have a medicinal component, but the drugs have not been found to cause addiction or compulsive use, and there is no evidence psychedelics cause any damage to the brain. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, unlike alcohol, there has never been a recorded overdose for most psychedelic drugs, including the most common, LSD and psilocybin mushrooms.

“Nicotine and alcohol are both far more harmful than psychedelics,” Burge said, “which proves that the legal status of drugs has historically had no relationship to scientific evidence about their risks. MAPS and other organizations in the psychedelic science field are changing that.”

In 2003 it was estimated more than 20 million Americans ingested a psychedelic drug, but the number of Americans who use psychedelics to help with autism, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia and alcoholism is not known. But according to Burge, if medicinal use includes those who use psychedelics for spiritual, personal growth, artistic, and other beneficial purposes, the number of users is in the millions.

With marijuana legalization appearing to be just a matter of time, many psychedelic-legalization supporters have begun to push for a psychedelic legalization movement, saying that the American public has been misinformed about the dangers of psychedelic drug use.

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