Pubdate: Wed, 27 Apr 2016
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Page: A4
Copyright: 2016 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Tiffany Crawford


Psychedelic drugs have made a resurgence as medications to treat
illnesses from post-traumatic stress disorder to end-of-life anxiety,
but researchers at the University of B.C. say the substances might
also rein in domestic violence.

The UBC Okanagan study, published last week in the Journal of
Psychopharmacology, found that 42 per cent of imprisoned men in the
U.S. who did not take psychedelic drugs after their release were
arrested within six years for domestic battery, compared to 27 per
cent for those who had taken drugs such as LSD, psilocybin - also
known as magic mushrooms - and MDMA, which is known by the street name

The observational study followed 302 inmates ages 17 through 40 for an
average of six years after they were released. All those observed were
serving sentences of one year or less at a county jail in Illinois,
and all had histories of substance use disorders, according to the
study. Seventy-two per cent of all participants had prior charges for
violent crimes.

The participants were interviewed during their period in jail about
their hallucinogen use. Of those who had experimented with
hallucinogenic drugs, 87 per cent had tried more than one of the more
well-known psychedelic drugs, such as magic mushrooms, LSD and MDMA.

Following release from jail, researchers used a U.S. law enforcement
database, including FBI data, to monitor arrests for domestic
violence. The researchers were unable to account for violence that was
not reported to police.

One of the researchers was Zach Walsh, the co-director for UBC
Okanagan's Centre for the Advancement of Psychological Science and
Law. He said the study speaks to the public health potential of
psychedelic drugs.

"As existing treatments for intimate partner violence are
insufficient, we need to take new perspectives such as this
seriously," he said.

Walsh said with proper dosage and setting, scientists might see "even
more profound effects."

Since most of the participants who had tried psychedelics had tried
more than one type, the team did not extrapolate which drug they
believed had the most impact on reducing violence. The study does
note, however, that there is evidence to suggest MDMA may foster
intimacy and improve communication, which may lead to less violence
against family members.

"That's one thing that we would like to look at more closely," he
said. "With MDMA, maybe you stop drinking and that leads to better
functioning in relationships. We know it's associated with increasing

Scientists are studying whether hallucinogens can lead to what they
call quantum change - a rapid change in behaviour based on a profound
experience, Walsh said.

"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," Walsh said.

However, Walsh noted this was not a clinical study and the area needs
much more research.

The findings challenge the stigmatization and criminalization of
hallucinogens due to putatively harmful social effects, and add to the
re-emerging literature on their therapeutic potential, the study concludes.

The study was co-authored by University of Alabama associate professor
Peter Hendricks, who said although the research is still new, one
explanation is that these drugs can provide profoundly meaningful
spiritual experiences.

"Often, people are struck by the realization that behaving with
compassion and kindness toward others is high on the list of what
matters," he said in a UBC statement.

While research on the benefits of psychedelic drugs took place in the
1950s to the 1970s, primarily to treat mental illness, it was stopped
because of the reclassification of the drugs as controlled substances
in the mid-1970s. LSD, MDMA and psilocybin continue to be classified
as illegal substances in Canada.

However, there has been a renewed interest in psychedelic medicine in
recent years, with studies being conducted around the world. In
Vancouver, for example, scientists with the Canadian Multidisciplinary
Association of Psychedelic Studies are about to begin Phase 3 of a
clinical trial using MDMA to treat PTSD, after recording a high rate
of success in the Phase 2 trial, particularly with military veterans.  
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D