There may not be a magic pill for curing racism, but scientists have found that dropping lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), magic mushrooms, ecstasy and other psychedelics can potentially alleviate the trauma caused by racial discrimination.
“Currently, there are no empirically supported treatments specifically for racial trauma,” said Dr. Monnica Williams of the University of Ottawa. “This study shows that psychedelics can be an important avenue for healing.”
She co-authored the trippy research published in the journal Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy.
To test out the mind-bending theory, Williams and other researchers enlisted 313 people who reported taking a psychedelic drug in the past that they felt helped mitigate “the challenging effects of ethnic discrimination,” per the study. Participants identified as black, Asian, Latino, Native American or Indigenous Canadian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander.
The group completed a survey on their experiences with racial trauma, which included unfair treatment by neighbors, teachers and bosses, false accusations of unethical behavior and physical violence, according to Ohio State News at Ohio State University. Many reported wanting to chastise someone over racist acts but kept quiet instead, per the study.
“Not everybody experiences every form of racial trauma, but certainly people of color are experiencing a lot of these different types of discrimination on a regular basis,” said Alan Davis, the study’s co-lead author and an assistant professor of social work at Ohio State University. “So in addition to depression and anxiety, we were asking whether participants had symptoms of race-based PTSD.”
The subjects were then asked about the short- and long-term effects of their aforementioned psychotropic experiences, which occurred anywhere from several months to more than 10 years prior to the experiment. Participants described the intensity of anxiety and other reactions to racism in the 30 days before and after taking drugs.
Researchers found that “their experience with psychedelic drugs was so powerful that they could recall and report on changes in symptoms from racial trauma that they had experienced in their lives, and they remembered it having a significant reduction in their mental health problems afterward,” said Davis.
Naturally, the controversial study boasted more than a few caveats. Not only was the experiment based entirely on patients’ memories but all the volunteers had reported positive psychedelic experiences prior to being recruited.
Nonetheless, the research marked “the first step in exploring whether people of color are experiencing benefits of psychedelics and, in particular, looking at a relevant feature of their mental health, which is their experience of racial trauma,” according to Davis.
To give their hypothesis a true “acid test,” the team is drafting proposals for clinical trials with which to illuminate the psychological effects of psychedelics in specific populations, including black, indigenous groups and other people of color.
Some might balk at the idea of mending mental wounds via a psychotropic salve. However, microdoses of hallucinogens have been shown to potentially reduce the effects of ailments ranging from depression to Alzheimer’s. As such, many states are working toward decriminalizing the drugs, with Oregon becoming the first to legalize psychedelic psilocybin mushrooms last month.