Sex workers who use psychedelic drugs have lower suicide risk, study finds

published on May 17, 2017 by Andrea Woo in The Globe and Mail

Sex workers who use psychedelic drugs such as LSD and magic mushrooms are associated with a markedly reduced risk of suicide, raising the possibility of new and innovative ways to treat a marginalized population.

That’s the conclusion of a study by the Gender and Sexual Health Initiative (GSHI) at the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, which investigated whether such drugs could have a “protective effect” on sex workers, who are at higher risk of suicidal thoughts and attempts than the general population.

It found that, among female sex workers, naturalistic psychedelic drug use was associated with a 60-per-cent reduced risk of suicidal tendencies.

GSHI researcher Elena Argento said the study, and its potential implications, highlight the urgent need to advance research on the therapeutic utility of psychedelics.

“Marginalized women, such as sex workers, face significant socio-structural risks for suicidality that come from criminalization and experiences of violence and past trauma,” she said. “There’s a need to start coming up with more innovative and evidence-based interventions that are tailored to marginalized women.”

Researchers gathered longitudinal data from January, 2010, through August, 2014, from female sex workers across Metro Vancouver, recruited through community outreach. The analysis was restricted to only those who had never had suicidal attempts or thoughts before the study – a total of 290 sex workers, or roughly half of participants.

The women completed bi-annual, interviewer-administered questionnaires. Researchers controlled for variables such as non-psychedelic drug use, childhood abuse and homelessness.

Other researchers have hypothesized that psychedelics might be protective because they regulate serotonin receptors that have been linked to major depression and suicide.

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