Hallucinogens show promise in curbing one’s criminal behavior and addictions.
Starting later this year, a researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham said he hopes to begin giving psilocybin obtained from hallucinogenic mushrooms to cocaine addicts to study if it can curb addiction.
Peter Hendricks, a clinical psychologist in the School of Public Health has reason to be optimistic.
Hendricks and colleagues studied about 30,000 people charged with a felony who were sent to a diversion program called the Treatment Accountability for Safer Communities (TASC) program, a case management intervention for those with a history of substance use.
Researchers found that those who used hallucinogenic drugs — even when controlled for variables — were less likely to fall back into crime and drug use after the program.
“There was an association between hallucinogen use and outcome in this TASC program, such that hallucinogen use was associated with decreased likelihood of failure,” Hendricks said.
So with this grounding, Hendricks said they are ready to take it to the next step, giving psilocybin pills to cocaine addicts, pending lots of red tape, including approvals from the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Agency. But similar research, with promising results, has been ongoing elsewhere so it is not like they will be plowing new ground for approval, Hendricks said.
Hendricks said the study of hallucinogenics and their medical benefits has enjoyed a resurgence after enduring the negative stigma in the 1960s attached to sensational claims and call for unfettered access made by those such as LSD guru and Harvard University professor Timothy Leary.
“No one that I know is going the route of Timothy Leary who really was unhinged and advocated for everybody to use,” said Hendricks.
It’s still a bit of a mystery how hallucinogens may work to the desired benefits of addiction control, Hendricks said.
It could be they act as a mood elevator. It could be they offer a shot of confidence that the addiction can be beat. Or, it could be something deeper.
Perhaps the hallucinogen, such as the naturally occurring psilocybin mushroom, spurs an introspection that leads to a self-revelation that leads to a big change.
Hendricks calls it an Ebenezer Scrooge moment.
“Something profound happened to Ebenezer Scrooge,” Hendricks said. “Think of Saul on the road to Damascus, a great persecutor of Christians, has some sort of experience and transforms over night.”
It’s not that Hendricks is implying Paul/Saul was eating magic mushrooms. He brings these examples up as analogies to the kind of transformative spiritual experience hallucinogens might help provoke in changing an addict’s behavior.