In recent years, an upsurge in psychedelic research among the scientific community has led to the discovery of psychedelic-assisted therapies capable of alleviating a variety of mental health conditions. Studies have found that psychedelics can be effective at treating mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and eating disorders when paired with psychotherapy.
Although researchers aren’t certain how psychedelics such as psilocybin and LSD have these effects, we know that the psychedelic experience plays a major role in therapy. But with psychedelic research still in its infancy, there is little concrete data available regarding how hallucinogenic drugs affect people of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.
Most of the existing studies suffer from a lack of ethnic and racial diversity, with a significant percentage of study participants being White. In fact, this phenomenon of only researching the psychedelic experiences of White participants has been dubbed psychedelic whitewashing.
According to a 2018 review of 17 major psychedelic studies carried out between 2000 and 2017, 82.3% of the study participants were White while only 4.1% were Black or Hispanic. This means that although these studies have brought forth incredible results, the findings barely represent minority communities and have significantly limited generalizability.
However, some recent studies show that ethnicity and race can play a role in how psychedelic treatments impact mental health outcomes. One such study from last month found race and ethnicity played a role in the impact of psilocybin and MDMA use to alleviate psychological stress and suicidality.
Lead researcher and Harvard University Clinical Psychology Ph.D. candidate Grant Jones stated that the study showed that race may have an impact on the association between psychedelics and overall health. The researchers sourced data from an annual population-based survey of 484,732 participants, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Their findings revealed that in White participants, for instance, lifetime use of MDMA was associated with a reduced risk of suicidal ideation in the past year and psychological distress in the past month. White participants who used psilocybin also presented a reduced likelihood of suicidal planning or ideation in the past year and psychological distress in the past month.
In Hispanics, using MDMA resulted in a lower likelihood of suicidal ideation in the past year and psilocybin use was associated with reduced chances of past month psychological distress.
For participants from Black, Indigenous and multiracial communities, psilocybin and MDMA use did not reduce the odds of any health outcome, suggesting that some races and ethnicities may benefit from psychedelic use while others may not.
As more research is undertaken by companies such as Field Trip Health Ltd. (OTC: FTHWF) (TSX: FTHW), due attention needs to be directed toward diversity concerns so that the results can be a reliable indicator of how the general population can benefit from using those psychedelic substances in a clinical setting.
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