February 19, 2014

SOPH research finds hallucinogens may help reduce criminal recidivism

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jailFrom the1950s until the early 1970s, hallucinogens — sometimes called psychedelics and entheogens — were studied for their therapeutic potential in carefully controlled medical settings.

This line of research eventually fell out of practice, but a new study from the UAB School of Public Health suggests that hallucinogens may help reduce criminal recidivism.

“There was no particular medical or scientific reason for research with hallucinogens coming to an end, but rather reasons stemming from their association with the countercultural revolution of the 1960s,” said Peter S. Hendricks, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Health Behavior. “Our research suggests that further studies with hallucinogens would be beneficial.”

Hendricks and colleagues examined the naturalistic relationship of hallucinogen use to criminal recidivism in more than 25,000 individuals charged with a felony and under community corrections supervision in the Treatment Accountability for Safer Communities (TASC) program, a case management intervention for those with a history of substance use.

When the individuals first entered TASC, a comprehensive assessment determined their demographic characteristics, including age, race and employment status, as well as their criminal histories and patterns of drug use. These data were assessed to ascertain which variables best predicted recidivism, and findings show that hallucinogen use was related to less recidivism even when controlling for all demographic characteristics, criminal history variables and other drug use patterns that accompany the use of hallucinogens.

“Science is a cumulative process, and when you interpret these results along with the older findings and newer research, you see a consistent picture,” Hendricks said. “There appears to be a relationship between hallucinogen use and positive outcomes.”

This study was recently published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

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