Psychedelics are being explored for their potential therapeutic benefits across a wide range of psychiatric diagnoses and may usher in a new age in psychiatric treatment. There is stigma associated with these currently illegal substances, and use varies by race and age. We hypothesized that minoritized racial and ethnic populations, relative to White respondents, would perceive psychedelic use as riskier.
Using 2019 cross-sectional data from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health, we conducted a secondary analysis of 41,679 respondents. Perceived risk of heroin was used as a surrogate for overall risk of illegal substance use; heroin and lysergic acid diethylamide were the only substances queried this way in the sample.
A majority regarded lysergic acid diethylamide (66.7%) and heroin (87.3%) as a great risk if used once or twice. There were clear differences by race, with White respondents and those indicating more than one race having significantly lower perceived risk of lysergic acid diethylamide than respondents from other groups. Perceived risk of use also significantly increased with age.
Perceived risk of lysergic acid diethylamide is unevenly distributed across the population. Stigma and racial disparities in drug-related crimes likely contribute to this. As research into potential therapeutic indications for psychedelics continues, perceived risk of use may change.