Magic Mushrooms
Boxes containing magic mushrooms sit on a counter at a coffee and smart shop in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, Nov. 28, 2008. Reuters/Jerry Lampen

For decades now, researchers and scientists have been investigating the positive effects of drugs that have been declared illegal by most governments around the world. Among these illicit drugs are psychedelics like magic mushrooms, LSD, and mescaline, which data suggests could be useful in reducing the antisocial and criminal tendencies among humans.

A recent study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology used 13 years of data, collected from over 480,000 adults in the United States, as part of the Department of Health and Human Services’ annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The data was analyzed by a team that included six researchers from the University of Alabama, Birmingham, led by Peter Hendricks, and one from the University of British Columbia (UBC), Okanagan Campus, Canada.

The data for the years 2002-2014 suggests that lifetime use of classic psychedelic drugs reduced the odds of people committing a crime. For instance, chances of having indulged in theft or larceny in the preceding year were found to be 27 percent less for psychedelic users than others, while the chance of being arrested for such crimes was found to be 22 percent lower. Similarly, psychedelic users showed 12 percent lower odds for committing violent crimes and 18 percent lower odds for being arrested for them.

UBC’s Zach Walsh, co-author of the recent paper, said in a statement Monday: “These findings add to a growing body of research suggesting that use of classic psychedelics may have positive effects for reducing antisocial behavior. They certainly highlight the need for further research into the potentially beneficial effects of these stigmatized substances for both individual and public health.”

In contrast with these findings of links between psychedelic drug use and crime, the data also showed “lifetime illicit use of other drugs was, by and large, associated with an increased odds of these outcomes.” However, drug distribution was the one activity that was associated with increased odds across lifetime users of drugs, irrespective of what drug it was, whether psychedelic or not.

But that alone does not deter Hendricks from adding in the statement: “Our findings suggest the protective effects of classic psychedelic use are attributable to genuine reductions in antisocial behavior rather than reflecting improved evasion of arrest. Simply put, the positive effects associated with classic psychedelic use appear to be reliable. Given the costs of criminal behavior, the potential represented by this treatment paradigm is significant.”

Titled “The relationships of classic psychedelic use with criminal behavior in the United States adult population,” the study appeared online Oct. 17.