Sound absurd? I had the same reaction after reading a summary of Timothy Leary’s study (yes, that Timothy Leary) from the 1960s that appeared to show decreased recidivism among inmates who were subjected to psilocybin therapy. The study, which was an outgrowth of the larger Harvard Psilocybin Project (PDF), was later found to be fatally flawed, but the author of the follow-up study, Rick Doblin, also concluded the following:
Whether a new program of psilocybin-assisted group psychotherapy and post-release programs would significantly reduce recidivism rates is an empirical question that deserves to be addressed within the context of a new experiment.
While this might all sound outlandish, Wired magazine recently published an article about the renewed interest in researching psychedelic drugs, including LSD, as a way to treat substance abuse, depression, and even existential fear related to a cancer diagnosis. The Wired article doesn’t discuss rehabilitative efforts aimed specifically at offenders , but there are legitimate clinical trials currently underway examining psilocybin as a treatment for alcohol dependence.
Substance abuse is one well known contributor to criminal behavior, so the relevance of the above trial to correctional intervention seems to exist at least.
Further, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies is attempting to bring some legitimacy to what has been a taboo field of research for many years, especially in the U.S. At this point, it appears research on psychedelics does have a PR problem of immense proportions, which leads to this week’s Monday poll question.
Vote and see the results for yourself!