Psychedelic drugs like magic mushrooms and LSD may have a hidden side effect: reducing domestic violence.
At least that's according to a new study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in May. The study found that men who had used psychedelic drugs in the past were roughly half as likely to be violent toward their partners than the general population.
"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," clinical psychology graduate student and lead author of the study Michelle Thiessen said in a news release. "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."
For the study, Thiessen and her colleagues from the University of British Columbia and Laurentian University surveyed a little less than 1,300 anonymous people recruited from other universities and through social media. They asked those people about their lifetime use of psilocybin (or 'magic') mushrooms and LSD, then asked other questions to determine how well they regulated their emotions.
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Male users of psychedelic drugs reported being more in control of their emotions, and were roughly half as likely to perform physical violence on their current partner compared to the general sample, according to the study. That connection did not extend to women.
"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," Zach Walsh, a professor and supervising author of the paper, said in a news release. "Our new study is important because it suggests that these effects might also apply to the general population"
One study published in 2017 looked at 480,000 adult survey respondents over the from 2002-2014, and found that users of psychedelic drugs were less likely to commit larceny, assault, property crimes in general or violent crimes in general the previous year, while "by and large," the chances of committing crimes went up for users of other illicit drugs.
"Past research found a clear association between psychedelic drug use and reduced partner violence, but the reasons for this effect remained unclear," Thiessen said in the news release. "We found that better ability to manage negative emotions may help explain why the hallucinogen users were less violent."
The scientists say psychedelics act on serotonin receptors in the brain, causing "mystical experiences and changes in perception, emotion, cognition and the sense of self.
Thiessen told the StarMetro Vancouver one question that remains to be answered is whether the drugs themselves resulted in a lower likelihood of violence or if less violent people were naturally attracted to psychedelics.
“Current drug policies really prohibit us from studying on a larger scale,” she told the paper “We as a society need to re-examine them.”
Thiessen hopes the study and future ones could lead to creative new ways to counter partner abuse.
"These findings add to the literature on the positive use of psychedelics and suggest that future research should explore the potential for psychedelic therapies to help address the international public health priority of reducing domestic violence," she wrote.