How Psychedelics Are Helping Some People Cope With Racial Trauma

Drugs like ketamine and psilocybin offer patients a new perspective on their experiences with racism

In a handful of clinics across Canada and the United States, therapists are administering ketamine to their patients to help them explore the psychological trauma left by racism. Ketamine, a psychedelic drug used in hospitals as an anesthetic and recreationally for its dissociative effects, seems to help people view their trauma through a third-person perspective, writes science journalist Emma Betuel in Future Human. In turn, they are able to extend compassion to themselves and learn to heal.

At the heart of this burgeoning field of study is the long-overdue understanding among mental health professionals that trauma due to racism is, in fact, a form of trauma similar to PTSD. Equipped with this understanding, some researchers are adapting experimental psychedelic therapies studied in people with PTSD and applying them to people with racial trauma. A small but growing body of research suggests that ketamine has powerful effects on depression (which often occurs alongside PTSD), as writer P.E. Moskowitz recently wrote in Elemental.

The researchers working in this field remind us, however, that therapies for helping people work through racial trauma should not distract from its root cause. “Psychedelics are incredible, and they do provide these great healing effects, but I think the issue is really more systemic. It’s about how society treats people of color,” therapist Mailae Halstead told Betuel.

Read more in Future Human:

Editor, Medium Coronavirus Blog. Senior editor at Future Human by OneZero. Previously: science at Inverse, genetics at NYU.

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