The relationships of classic psychedelic use with criminal behavior in the United States adult population

J Psychopharmacol. 2018 Jan;32(1):37-48. doi: 10.1177/0269881117735685. Epub 2017 Oct 17.


Criminal behavior exacts a large toll on society and is resistant to intervention. Some evidence suggests classic psychedelics may inhibit criminal behavior, but the extent of these effects has not been comprehensively explored. In this study, we tested the relationships of classic psychedelic use and psilocybin use per se with criminal behavior among over 480,000 United States adult respondents pooled from the last 13 available years of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2002 through 2014) while controlling for numerous covariates. Lifetime classic psychedelic use was associated with a reduced odds of past year larceny/theft (aOR = 0.73 (0.65-0.83)), past year assault (aOR = 0.88 (0.80-0.97)), past year arrest for a property crime (aOR = 0.78 (0.65-0.95)), and past year arrest for a violent crime (aOR = 0.82 (0.70-0.97)). In contrast, lifetime illicit use of other drugs was, by and large, associated with an increased odds of these outcomes. Lifetime classic psychedelic use, like lifetime illicit use of almost all other substances, was associated with an increased odds of past year drug distribution. Results were consistent with a protective effect of psilocybin for antisocial criminal behavior. These findings contribute to a compelling rationale for the initiation of clinical research with classic psychedelics, including psilocybin, in forensic settings.

Keywords: Hallucinogen; criminal justice; forensic psychology; lysergic acid diethylamide; psilocybin; psychedelic; recidivism.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Crime / psychology
  • Criminal Behavior / drug effects*
  • Criminals / psychology
  • Female
  • Hallucinogens / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psilocybin / therapeutic use
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use
  • United States
  • Young Adult


  • Hallucinogens
  • Psychotropic Drugs
  • Psilocybin