Take LSD, stay out of prison? Huge study links psychedelic use to reduced recidivism

Choose you evidence carefully by rocket ship
Choose you evidence carefully by rocket ship

Hmmm. Some pretty breathless reporting of a recent study looking at offenders who are dependent upon hallucinogens.

A study of more than 25,000 people under community corrections supervision suggests the use of psychedelic drugs like LSD can keep people out of prison.

The research is the first in 40 years to examine whether drugs like LSD and “magic” mushrooms can help reform criminals.

“Our results provide a notable exception to the robust positive link between substance use and criminal behavior,” the researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine wrote in their study, which was published in the January issue of the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

“They add to both the older and emerging body of data indicating beneficial effects of hallucinogen interventions, and run counter to the legal classification as well as popular perception of hallucinogens as categorically harmful substances with no therapeutic potential.”

. . .

“Offenders may be especially likely to benefit from hallucinogen treatment because involvement in the criminal justice system often results from drug-seeking behavior and impulsive conduct exacerbated by compulsive substance use,” the researchers explained in the study.

How did they reach the conclusion that offenders might benefit from hallucinogen “treatment”?

From 2002 to 2007, the researchers collected data on 25,622 individuals under community corrections supervision in Treatment Accountability for Safer Communities (TASC), a program for individuals with a history of drug abuse.

Only about 1 percent of those in the program were diagnosed with a hallucinogen use disorder. Cannabis use disorders, cocaine use disorders, and alcohol use disorders were the most common diagnoses in the group.

The researchers found those diagnosed with a hallucinogen use disorder were less likely to fail the TASC program compared to those without a hallucinogen use disorder. That means those with a hallucinogen use disorder were less likely to violate TASC rules or other legal requirements, less likely to fail to appear in court, and less likely to be incarcerated.

So . . . 256 people under community corrections supervision (In Michigan, this means they they would have to be convicted of a felony. I don’t know if this is true in all states.) meet criteria for hallucinogen dependence and they are less likely to violate supervision rule or re-offend. And this means that offenders might benefit from hallucinogen “treatment”? 

How on earth does one get from point A to point B? I don’t know. I mean, these are people who have offended in some way (I have no idea what portion of these were convicted of drug crimes.) and the fact that people who are hallucinogen dependent violate at lower rates than cocaine, opiate, marijuana or alcohol addicts means that we should explore hallucinogenic “treatments”?

What am I missing?

via Take LSD, stay out of prison? Huge study links psychedelic use to reduced recidivism | PsyPost.

8 thoughts on “Take LSD, stay out of prison? Huge study links psychedelic use to reduced recidivism

  1. complete and utter garbage! Sounds like social experimentation….bordering on eugenics as far as I am concerned.


  2. “What am I missing?”

    You are sadly deficient in the capacity to make huge and meaningless leaps of logic-defying linkage of things that should not be linked.

    Call Ben Goldacre now! This is Bad Science.


  3. With all things, framing is important.

    Let me be the first to say…I haven’t looked at the study’s methodology to conclude this is quality research. But calling it “Bad Science”? What of recommending Suboxone or Methadone to people or clients? Is that “Bad Science” as well? I suppose you should send me a pdf of the paper because you must have read it in its entirety.

    Anyone who has taken LSD cannot deny the power of the substance to mimic what many consider to be a spiritual awakening. It would be interesting to see how they framed this type of intervention. Especially now that most of the past hippy drug movement hysteria (potential for bias) about LSD has passed.

    I have met Native Americans claiming 4 years of sobriety who consume substances considered as cultural artifacts of a deep and rich spiritual heritage (and also meet requirement to be considered as hallucinogens). Although we are talking about a study attempting to intervene on prison recidivism, there is plenty of evidence in recovery that supports spiritual awakenings of the “educational variety” (i.e. these are desirable). Could there be anything more educational than LSD interventions?

    With all things, framing is important. Again, consider a look at Methadone, Suboxone, or Naloxone programs. How are they framed? As tools to help people get a handle on life. Further, you won’t withdraw nearly as bad from LSD (has it been proven?) like you will in the absence of a dose of Methadone or Suboxone.


      1. Hi Jason,
        I don’t think you’ve missed much:
        1. I wasn’t prepared to spend $36 on downloading the paper, but an OR (odds ratio) of 0.6 means that about 148 of the 256 “hallucinogen dependents” will have violated, whereas you would normally expect 180 violations in à sample of 256 (assuming average rate of recidivism is 70%) so this finding is all about 180-148=32 guys who didn’t violate because they were too busy hallucinating …
        2. although the authors give à list of factors they have controlled for, as you say addiction is à function of the user, so an equally valid interpretation in an observational study of this kind is that there is à third unobserved variable that is correlated both with user’s propensity for hallucinogen dependency and staying out of further trouble eg an unobserved educational or biosocial attribute.
        I often think it would be helpful if research authors in this field made à declaration of interest that includes any personal history of recreational use.


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