Men who have used psychedelics are roughly half as likely to commit intimate partner violence

A new study has found evidence that men — but not women — who have used psychedelic drugs in the past have a lower likelihood of engaging in violence against their current partners. The research was published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

“We were interested in looking at the association between psychedelics and violence for a number of reasons,” said Michelle Thiessen, a clinical psychology graduate student at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan Campus and study lead author.

“First, the association between substance use and violence has received considerable attention, but research specifically looking at psychedelics and violence was lacking. We wanted to see if psychedelics were associated with violence in the same way as alcohol, methamphetamine, cocaine etc.”

“Second, we found in a previous study that psychedelics appeared to be protective against partner violence in a sample of men involved in the criminal justice system and we wanted to know if that association could be extended to a community sample of both men and women.”

“Finally, there’s a lot of important and informative research coming out almost weekly regarding the therapeutic potential of psychedelics and we wanted to dive a little deeper into this association and see if there was a plausible mechanism underlying this association, in the case of our study we looked at emotion regulation.

The study surveyed 1,266 people, who were recruited from universities and through social media. Men who had used lysergic acid diethylamide and/or psilocybin mushrooms in their lifetime were about half as likely to report perpetrating violence against an intimate partner compared to those with no history of psychedelic use.

“In general, classic psychedelics don’t appear to carry the same risk of domestic violence as some other substances, including those that may be legal like alcohol,” Thiessen told PsyPost.

“Instead, it appears that those who had taken psychedelics at least once in their life perpetrated less violence in their romantic relationship when we compared them to men who hadn’t used psychedelics. We dug a little bit deeper and found that men who had used psychedelics also reported less difficulties with negative emotions and that this partially explained why they engaged in less violence.”

Perpetrators of intimate partner violence, on the other hand, showed greater difficulties with emotion regulation.

But the study has some limitations.

“This study collected information at one time point, so it is possible that men who have less difficulties with negative emotions are also just more inclined to take psychedelics and engage in less violence,” Thiessen said. “I’m hopeful that we will continue to learn more about the potential therapeutic use of psychedelics as research permits.”

From the 1950s through the early 1970s, there was a plethora of studies on the medical use of psychedelic drugs. But researching such substances became difficult after they were outlawed.

“There is still so much to know about these understudied substances. Prohibition has put a serious damper on our scientific study of psychedelics but that does appear to be changing,” Thiessen added.

The study, “Psychedelic use and intimate partner violence: The role of emotion regulation“, was authored by Michelle S Thiessen, Zach Walsh, Brian M Bird and Adele Lafrance.