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Psychedelics Shown to Ease the Effects of Racial Trauma

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Psychedelics Shown to Ease the Effects of Racial Trauma

A recent study found that even a single positive psychedelic experience may ease mental health symptoms associated with racial trauma experienced by Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). Participants in the study, a retrospective internet-based survey, said that in the 30 days following an experience with LSD, psilocybin, or MDMA symptoms associated with racial trauma decreased.

“Their experience with psychedelic drugs was so powerful that they could recall and report on changes in symptoms from racial trauma that they had experienced in their lives, and they remembered it having a significant reduction in their mental health problems afterward,” Alan Davis, co-lead author of the study and an assistant professor of social work at The Ohio State University, told the Ohio State News

Racial trauma is experienced by BIPOC in many ways, from overt acts of racism to microaggressions that may pass under the radar. The cumulative effect of these traumas can result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as depression and anxiety. The use of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy is gaining ground as a valid and effective treatment for PTSD, depression, and anxiety, but BIPOC have been underrepresented in those studies. 

Lead researcher Monnica Williams, an associate professor in the School of Psychology at the University of Ottawa, said it was this disparity that inspired her to investigate further. 

“As a clinical psychologist, new research on methods to treat depression and anxiety disorders is of great interest to me,” Williams explained. “When the fear surrounding psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy subsided in recent years, one of my thoughts was, ‘How will we ensure mental health professionals are equipped to do this important work with people of color?’ Many people of color suffer from trauma and need healing from traumatic experiences of racism. Unfortunately, Black Americans and other people of color are being left out of psychedelics research. And if white folks are benefiting from this treatment, surely people of color should too.”

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Studies have shown that BIPOC who seek therapy have more positive outcomes when working with a therapist of similar racial or ethnic background. But roadblocks faced by BIPOC in the world of academia, including those who pursue post-graduate degrees as therapists, are well-known. There is concern that these roadblocks will manifest in a way that limits the number of therapists of color who are certified to integrate psychedelics into their practice. 

Williams says she hopes this will not be a problem for BIPOC who seek treatment. “In August of 2019 the MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) team and I conducted a training on MDMA-assisted therapy for communities of color, specifically geared towards training new therapists of color,” explained Williams. “Efforts similar to these will ensure that there are POC therapists who are certified to conduct MDMA assisted psychotherapy. CIIS (California Institute of Integral Studies) in San Francisco is doing great work training diverse therapists in their certificate program, and we are gearing up to do the same at the University of Ottawa.”

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