Alexander Wu, Sara Prostko, Samuel Maddams, Veronica Szpak, Lori Hilt Ph.D., Joji Suzuki MD
Psychedelics are a potential treatment for substance use disorders (SUD) and other psychiatric disorders. This study’s goals are to assess the use and perceptions of risk and treatment acceptability of psychedelics in individuals with SUD and psychiatric disorders. In this cross-sectional survey study, individuals with SUD and/or psychiatric disorders were invited to participate in person, through fliers, or through Patient Gateway. Participants were 76 adults Mage = 44.3 years [SD = 15.0]; 55% female; 63% had ever used a psychedelic and 33% were currently using; 58% had SUD and 71% had psychiatric disorders.
Of 76 participants, 86% had heard of psychedelic treatment and 63% have used a psychedelic. Participants who were unsure or did not think psychedelics could help were more likely to believe that psychedelics could cause brain damage, harmful interactions with other drugs, physical pain/duress, or heart damage. However, many participants would consider psychedelic treatment. Generally, people believe psychedelics are not more harmful than alcohol, tobacco, or opioids. People would be more likely to use psilocybin if it were legal, are interested in learning more about psychedelic treatment, and would consider psychedelic treatment for their own disorder. Individuals with SUDs and/or psychiatric disorders may consider treatment with psychedelics.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to a significant increase in substance use disorders, anxiety, and depression. Additional treatments that work are greatly needed. Recently, psychedelics have been proposed as a treatment for substance use and other mental health disorders. For example, psilocybin, a psychedelic, originates from mushrooms (known as “magic mushrooms”), has a good safety profile with low chance of abuse, and is an emerging treatment. However, acceptability of psychedelics as a treatment is unknown. Many people may harbor serious concerns for safety including the risk for addiction regarding psychedelics, which could influence whether one is willing to use it for therapeutic purposes. In this study, we surveyed individuals who had histories of substance use or other psychiatric disorders. Of 76 participants, 86% had heard of psychedelic treatment, 63% had used a psychedelic, 78% thought psychedelic treatments could help patients with substance use or psychiatric disorders, and 22% were unsure or disagreed. Participants who were unsure or did not believe that psychedelics could be helpful were more likely to believe that psychedelics could not cause brain damage, harmful interactions with other drugs, physical pain/duress or heart damage. Many individuals with substance use and psychiatric disorders may consider treatment with psychedelics.