Psychedelics are now being studied in combination with psychotherapy for the treatment of major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, and substance use disorders. Although the early results of such trials are promising, the current development approach for these interventions may actually increase existing inequalities for mental healthcare access across demographic groups. Indeed, psychedelic clinical trials have struggled to enroll subjects from minority populations historically targeted by biased enforcement of drug laws and unethical research protocols. Eliminating this disparity early in the development cycle is critical.

The setting in which psychedelic compounds are dosed has been demonstrated to be an essential component of the intervention, so current dosing environments have largely been shown to promote therapeutic success for the disproportionately white and well-educated subject population that has been enrolled to date. Therefore, this study aims to:

  1. quantify how perceptions of the psychedelic study room environment are modified by racial and ethnic self-identity, and
  2. to determine whether culturally-adaptive art selection and training protocols enhance recruitment and experience of minority participants. These aims will be achieved through administration of surveys to both research subjects and community partners representing a demographically diverse group of stakeholders, as well as through incorporation of a subject-controlled adaptive art display into upcoming trials.

Little previous research has quantified the interaction between self-identity and psychedelic research environment, and none has explicitly focused on individualized, subject-controlled interventions to improve therapeutic outcome equity for under-represented groups. Ultimately, this research will identify adaptive setting protocols to improve recruitment and retention of minority populations in psychedelic trials and treatment. Proactively addressing treatment access inequality is critical if these novel interventions are to avoid the equity failures of their predecessors. This work will result in peer-reviewed publications and grant submissions, and could support development of a demographically-annotated art library and adaptive setting-selection system.

Grant information

  • Funding Source: WARF
  • Grant #: URI 2021
  • Active Date: 7/1/2021 – 06/30/2023