A recent survey found that nearly half of Americans support the legalization of psychedelics for therapeutic purposes.
Nearly half of Americans support legalizing psychedelics for therapeutic use, according to the results of a recent survey. The public opinion poll found that 45% of U.S. adults support legalizing some psychedelic compounds for the treatment of mental health conditions, provided they are administered under the supervision of a qualified medical or mental health professional. When asked if they supported legalizing psychedelics for other purposes, 28% said that they support legalizing the substances for spiritual or religious purposes, while a quarter (26%) said that they believe psychedelics should be legalized for recreational use.
The results of the survey, which was commissioned by online mental health education resource Verywell Mind, come at a time when increased attention is being focused on the role psychedelics may play in the treatment of serious mental health conditions including anxiety, depression, and addiction. With the spotlight on the potential benefits of psychedelics, leaders in jurisdictions across the country are rethinking policies that prohibit psychedelics including psilocybin, the active compound in magic mushrooms.
Although the survey showed strong support for legalizing psychedelics for therapeutic use, many of the more than 1,800 adults surveyed revealed that they personally have a negative view of the substances. Only 15% said that they have a positive view of psychedelics, while a third (34%) said they have a negative view of the compounds. The remaining half of the respondents said that they either have a neutral view of psychedelics (24%) or had never heard of psychedelics (26%).
“Despite these knowledge and accessibility gaps, our results do show that under the right circumstances, nearly half of Americans are open to the idea of using psychedelics for mental health conditions,” wrote the authors of a report on the survey.
The survey showed that 34% of Americans are aware that psychedelics are being used to treat mental health conditions, while 29% said that they have heard about psychedelics being used to treat specific conditions such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). By comparison, about half of those who have recently seen a therapist said that they have heard about psychedelics being used in mental health applications.
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“One in three Americans say they’d be more open to considering psychedelic-assisted treatment upon professional recommendation/administration or FDA approval,” the authors wrote.
Despite their increasing acceptance, most psychedelics including psilocybin are listed as Schedule I drugs under the Controlled Substances Act, ostensibly indicating that they have no medical value and a high propensity for abuse. While efforts are underway to reclassify many potentially therapeutic compounds, ketamine is the only psychedelic approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But even if more psychedelics are approved for therapeutic use by the agency, the authors of the survey caution that accessibility and the cost of treatment will remain as barriers to their use.
“When it comes to psychedelics, Americans are cautious, but curious. Better scientific and psychological understanding of these drugs, their effects, risks, and potential benefits will be the first steps toward wider acceptance, continued decriminalization and, ultimately, normalization as a mental health treatment option when appropriate,” they concluded.
The results of the study highlight the increasing acceptance of psychedelic medicines as a treatment for serious mental health conditions. In October 2018, the FDA designated psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy as a breakthrough therapy for treatment-resistant depression, indicating that the therapy is a significant improvement over existing treatments. The following year, the FDA again designated psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy as a breakthrough therapy, this time for the treatment of major depressive disorder.
In October 2022, a survey of 181 psychiatrists conducted by researchers at Ohio State University found that many of the professionals did not agree with the federal classification of psilocybin as a Schedule I controlled substance.
“American psychiatrists’ perceptions about safety and abuse/therapeutic potentials associated with certain psychoactive drugs were inconsistent with those indicated by their placement in drug schedules,” the researchers concluded. “These findings add to a growing consensus amongst experts that the current drug policy is not scientifically coherent.”
As psychedelics gain more acceptance in the research and mental health communities, policymakers and members of the public are beginning to reassess the illegality of the compounds. Cities across the country have passed measures to decriminalize psychedelics and entheogenic plants and fungi, directing their police departments to make laws prohibiting them the lowest law enforcement priority.
In 2020, voters in Oregon passed a groundbreaking to legalize the therapeutic use of psilocybin for adults when administered in a clinical setting by a licensed professional. Two years later, Colorado followed suit, also passing a measure to legalize the supervised therapeutic use of psilocybin in the 2022 midterm elections.
Dr. Rick Doblin, founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), told the Denver Post that within the next decade, he expects thousands of psychedelic therapy centers to be in operation across the nation as legalization efforts continue to spread.
“Colorado is one of the pioneering states, and how things are going to develop with the natural plant medicine is very important,” Doblin said, adding MAPS plans to assist the state with peer support and harm reduction training. “We really want to look at Colorado as a bellwether state for the rest of the country – also Oregon – and see, how do we do the public education and the training to make it so population-wide knows how to handle these things?”
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