Well-Being Mental Health

Nearly half of U.S. adults support legalizing some psychedelics for mental health treatment

“When it comes to psychedelics, Americans are cautious, but curious.”
"Magic mushrooms" are photographed.

Story at a glance

  • In recent years, strides have been made in better understanding the potential benefits of psychedelics for mental health conditions.

  • However, most of these substances are still classified as Schedule I in the United States.

  • A new report from VeryWellMind underscores the growing acceptance of psychedelics as potential alternative therapies for some mental health conditions.

A new survey from VeryWellMind found 45 percent of Americans support legalizing some psychedelic substances for the treatment of a mental health condition — if they are administered under supervision from a medical or mental health professional. 

The results come amid a growing push for more research on the substances, many of which are classified as Schedule I in the United States meaning they have no medical use and pose a high abuse risk. 

One survey carried out in August 2022 among 181 U.S. psychiatrists found many took issue with the federal classification of some psychoactive substances. 

However, the latest survey, based on a sample of over 1,800 American adults, revealed just 15 percent had a positive opinion of psychedelics, 34 percent had a negative opinion, and the remaining half was neutral or had never heard of psychedelics. 

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“Despite these knowledge and accessibility gaps, our results do show that under the right circumstances, nearly half Americans are open to the idea of using psychedelics for mental health conditions,” authors wrote.

Data showed 34 percent of Americans are aware of psychedelics being used for mental health reasons, while 29 percent have heard of the substances being used for specific conditions, like depression and PTSD. In comparison, half of Americans who recently saw a therapist have heard of these uses for psychedelics. 

“One in three Americans say they’d be more open to considering psychedelic-assisted treatment upon professional recommendation/administration or FDA approval,” authors added. 

Examples of psychedelic drugs that have shown promise in treating various mental health disorders include psilocybin (the active ingredient in ‘magic mushrooms’), ketamine, and MDMA. Most trials investigate psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, where participants receive the treatment and also complete talk therapy sessions with professionals. 

Several cities in the United States have also decriminalized use of some psychedelics, while in January, Oregon will become the first state to legalize the use of psilocybin in clinical settings

Currently, ketamine is the only psychedelic medicine approved by the Food and Drug Administration specifically indicated for use in treatment-resistant depression.  

When asked whether they would support legalization of some or all psychedelics for other purposes, 28 percent were in favor of legalization for religious or spiritual purposes, while 26 percent were in favor of recreational legalization. 

Even if more psychedelic treatments for mental health conditions were approved, authors caution cost and accessibility hurdles will likely remain. 

“When it comes to psychedelics, Americans are cautious, but curious. Better scientific and psychological understanding of these drugs, their effects, risks, and potential benefits will be the first steps toward wider acceptance, continued decriminalization and, ultimately, normalization as a mental health treatment option when appropriate,” they concluded.