All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Peter Hendricks

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences


Psychedelic drugs have gained prominent attention in recent years for their therapeutic potential in treating mental illness in clinical settings. Concurrently, population studies show increasing prevalence and notable demographic changes among naturalistic psychedelic users, as well as mixed associations between different types of naturalistic psychedelic use and mental health. However, despite this ongoing cultural shift, little is known about temporal changes in the mental health profiles of naturalistic psychedelic users at the population level. This thesis examined national trends in the association between past year naturalistic use of LSD, MDMA, and DMT/AMT/Foxy and past year mental illness among US adults, using data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health 2008-2021. It was hypothesized that the association between past year naturalistic psychedelic use and past year mental illness would strengthen over successive survey waves, potentially reflecting growing trends of intentional naturalistic psychedelic use for self-medication. Logistic regression models tested these relationships. While past year mental illness predicted greater likelihood of past year naturalistic LSD and DMT/AMT/Foxy use but not past year naturalistic MDMA use during certain epochs, no interactions were significant, suggesting the association has remained relatively stable from 2008 to 2021. Despite limitations caused by NSDUH survey redesigns, which reduced statistical power, findings imply that potential self-medication trends with naturalistic psychedelic use may not be changing substantially at the population level amidst rising prevalence. More rigorous longitudinal research assessing motives and patterns of use is imperative to elucidate the nuanced relationships between naturalistic use of specific psychedelics and dimensions of mental health. This could inform appropriate regulation, harm reduction services, and therapeutic applications as these substances gain mainstream acceptance.



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