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Study Finds Link Between Hallucinogens and Prison Recidivism

Researchers have found that prisoners with so-called hallucinogen use disorder were far less likely to return to jail than convicts using marijuana, alcohol, and cocaine.

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By Paul Gaita

01/15/14

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Can LSD be the key to keeping prisoners from returning to jail? Researchers at the University of Alabama and Birmingham and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine published a study in the January 2014 issue of the Journal of Psychopharmacology that indicates a link between hallucinogen treatment and lower rates of return to incarceration for individuals in corrections facilities.

The study, conducted between 2002 and 2007, collected data on more than 25,000 prisoners in Treatment Accountability for Safer Communities (TASC), a program for individuals with drug abuse issues. The study showed that one percent of the participants were diagnosed with problems involving psychedelics and other hallucinogens, while the vast majority of diagnoses were related to marijuana, alcohol, and cocaine use. Those participants with a hallucinogen use disorder were found to be less likely to fail the TASC program by violating its rules or other legal requirements, and as a result, were less likely to return to incarceration. Furthermore, the study indicated that hallucinogen use might be useful in promoting abstinence from both alcohol or drug use among those individuals who have returned to prison due in part to their substance issues.

The study’s authors were quick to point out that while their findings did not support advocacy for casual hallucinogen use, they did indicate that “in a real-world, substance-related intervention setting, hallucinogen use is associated with a lower probability of poor outcome.” The study echoes findings by researchers made in the 1950s that suggested psychedelics, in combination with psychotherapy, could prove effective in treating various conditions, including alcoholism and drug addiction. Such research was brought to a halt in 1970 with the passage of the federal Controlled Substances Act, which listed LSD and naturally occurring psychedelics as mescaline, psilocybin, and psilocin as Schedule 1 controlled substances along with marijuana, heroin, peyote, ecstasy, and DMT.

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