• Steven Huang

The Need for Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy in the Black Community

Research by: Darron T. Smith, Sonya C. Faber, NiCole T. Buchanan, Dale Foster and Lilith Green

SUMMARY

It was always obvious to me how race-based stress and trauma, in particular anti-Black racism, can lead to PTSD. This paper, however, answered a lot of my questions around the physiological affects of systemic racism on Black minds and bodies and, in turn, how psychedelics can greatly benefit Black communities.

How racism affects the body: Ongoing emotional arousal and reactivity to systemic racism triggers a stress response within the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis (HPA-axis), which is responsible for the proliferation of cortisol and adrenaline. The HPA-axis regulates the body’s fight, flight or freeze response; so real and imagined stress disturbs heart rate, breathing and fatigue – leaving the body more susceptive to illness and disease like gastrointestinal distress, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and an overall lower immune response.


How racism affects the brain: The brain’s response to race-based stress causes a disruption of neurotransmitters, neural networks, brain communication and signaling. Racism creates stressful social environments that, evaluated under brain imaging, shrink dendrites (tiny projections of branches at the terminal end of neurons). The dysregulation of brainwave frequency homeostasis has numerous effects within the cortical framework, interfering with an individual’s capacity to feel, think, and connect with others.


IMPLICATIONS

There's a sentiment in the psychedelics community that is some variation of this: "let's legalize psychedelic therapy for everyone - and then - focus on bringing Black communities and other marginalized populations along." I can see the thought process here; but I feel strongly that this kind of thinking will deepen existing health inequity by creating the perception that "psychedelics aren't for Black people." Unless we center Black communities to undo decades of racist drug policy, we potentially set health equity progress back even more.

We need to destigmatize psychotherapeutics among Black people while catalyzing a societal change in which law enforcement, psychology and medicine becomes accepting and encouraging of seeing Black people experience healing from trauma from the careful, culturally competent use of psychedelics. I am inspired to start featuring and highlighting Black people who have benefitted from the use of psychedelic therapy.


WANT A COPY OF THE RESEARCH?

Reach out via the "Contact Me" session and I will send you a copy.