Alan Kooi Davis, PhD
The Ohio State University and Johns Hopkins University
Psychedelic-occasioned decreases in trauma symptoms among people of color who have a history of racial trauma
We examined how the use of psychedelics after race-based trauma influenced subsequent psychopathology among people of color. We employed a cross-sectional internet-based survey design. Participants of color were asked to report on past experiences with racial trauma and mental health symptoms and to provide details about their psychedelic experiences. Changes in mental health were assessed by retrospective report of the 30 days before/after the psychedelic experience. We recruited 468 participants of color across the US and Canada (MeanAge=32; female=56%; never married=36%; Black/African American/Canadian=35%, Asian American/Canadian=33%, Native American/Canadian=13%; Hispanic=20%). Psychedelics consumed included psilocybin (31%), LSD (28%), or MDMA (21%). Among those who said that using psychedelics helped them manage racial and ethnic discrimination, we found large (d=.95) and statistically significant (p<.001) decreases in the intensity of trauma symptoms from before-to-after the psychedelic experience. Greater acute mystical and insightful experiences, and lower challenging experiences during the psychedelic experience were significantly related to decreases in trauma symptoms (p<.001). Greater acute mystical and insightful experiences, and lower challenging experiences, during the psychedelic experience were also significantly related to increases in psychological flexibility, which were in turn strongly related to the change in trauma symptoms (r=.68; p<.001). This pattern of results was similar regardless of the psychedelic used. People of color have been underrepresented in psychedelic studies. Psychedelics may hold promise in helping decrease the negative impact of racial trauma in these populations. Future clinical trials should examine the efficacy of psychedelics as an adjunct to psychotherapy for individuals with a history of race-based trauma.
Dr. Alan K Davis is an Assistant Professor of Social Work at The Ohio State University and Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Davis’s clinical experience includes working with people diagnosed with trauma-based psychological problems such as addiction, PTSD, depression, and anxiety. His clinical expertise includes providing evidenced-based treatments such as motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy. Consistent with his clinical interests, his research interests and expertise focus on contributing to the knowledge of and ability to help those suffering with substance use and mental health problems, understanding how to improve clinical outcomes through examining new treatments, and developing ways to conceptualize substance use and mental health problems through a strengths-based approach. Psychedelic research focuses on clinical trials with psilocybin for people with depression and exploring psychological mechanisms by which psilocybin improves mental health and functioning and examining the therapeutic potential of fast-acting synthetic tryptamines.