New Poll Shows 61% of Americans Support Legalizing Psychedelic Therapy

A poll from the University of California, Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics (BCSP) shows new data regarding American support of legal psychedelic therapy. The poll results were published online on June 20 in what the university calls the “first-ever Berkeley Survey,” which was also presented at the Psychedelic Science 2023 Conference in Denver, Colorado.

“More than six out of 10 (61%) American registered voters support legalizing regulated therapeutic access to psychedelics, including 35% who report ‘strong’ support,” UC Berkeley wrote in a press release regarding the poll. “In addition, more than three-quarters of voters (78%) support making it easier for researchers to study psychedelic substances. Almost half (49%) support removing criminal penalties for personal use and possession.”

Poll participants were asked to answer “support,” “oppose,” or “other” to two questions. First, they were asked what their response is to “creating a regulated legal framework for the therapeutic use of psychedelics.” Second, they were asked their opinion on “Obtaining FDA approval so that people can access psychedelics by prescription.”

The data is the result of “new longitudinal public opinion research project” conducted by university researchers, which tracks public beliefs related to psychedelic substance research, policy and cultural events. According to BCSP’s Executive Director Imran Khan, this data is just the beginning. “This is the first clear picture we have of what the American public think and feel about psychedelics. The Berkeley Psychedelics Survey shows that the majority of American voters are interested in, and supportive of, the field. They want fewer barriers to research for scientists, and they want regulated, therapeutic access for the public,” Khan said. “Amidst all the stigma and the hype about these powerful substances, it’s vital that researchers, policymakers, and practitioners can understand and respond to the public’s hopes and fears. We’re excited to reveal the full results of the Berkeley Psychedelics Survey in the coming weeks.”

Both Khan, as well as Berkeley Psychedelics Survey project lead, Taylor West, previewed the data at the Psychedelic Science 2023 Conference. “The level of national support for psychedelics policy reform far exceeded my expectations. Clearly much of the news around promising research and mental health results has begun breaking through to the general public,” West said on the stage.

The survey in its entirety will be published on July 12 in an online presentation by BCSP co-founder Michael Pollan, as well as Khan and West. Those interested in the digital presentation can register here.

On June 26, the BCSP announced on its Twitter page that it was be hosting a psychedelics course through the UC Berkeley Extension through the edX platform. The course, called “Psychedelics and The Mind, begins on August 1 and is taught by UC Berkeley Professor of Neurobiology David Presti. “In becoming a more informed citizen vis-à-vis psychedelics, you will have an opportunity to become better acquainted with your own brain and nervous system, understand the science related to organisms and molecules having psychedelic properties, gain historical and contemporary context surrounding factors that influence public opinion and law, and appreciate something of the rapidly evolving contemporary clinical research with these materials,” the course information states.

A brief look at the syllabus shows course coverage of “Foundational Concepts in the Neurobiology of Psychedelics” including substances such as LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, sacred cacti and mescaline, DMT, ayahuasca, and Amazonian snuffs, MDMA, ketamine, and nitrous oxide. To cover this wide variety of topics, Presti includes expert sources such as “Raquel Bennett, Susana Bustos, Gül Dölen, Andrea Gomez, Ayize Jama-Everett, Bob Jesse, Dacher Keltner, Mariavittoria Mangini, Jennifer Mitchell, Michael Pollan, Sylvestre Quevedo, and Forrest Tahdooahnippah.”

In another first for psychedelics, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently issued its first guidance for clinical studies on psychedelics on June 23. Tiffany Farchione, M.D., director of the Division of Psychiatry in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, released a statement about the agency’s recommendations for psychedelic study. “Psychedelic drugs show initial promise as potential treatments for mood, anxiety and substance use disorders. However, these are still investigational products. Sponsors evaluating the therapeutic potential of these drugs should consider their unique characteristics when designing clinical studies,” Farchione said. “By publishing this draft guidance, the FDA hopes to outline the challenges inherent in designing psychedelic drug development programs and provide information on how to address these challenges. The goal is to help researchers design studies that will yield interpretable results that will be capable of supporting future drug applications.”

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