4 Recommendations for Disability Inclusion in Psychedelic Therapy Research

How can psychedelic research incorporate disability inclusion into future work?

In recent years, researchers have conducted an increasing number of clinical trials for psychedelic therapies for the treatment of several psychiatric conditions. However, few of those trials included individuals with physical and sensory disabilities. In response, Mintz et al1 provided 4 suggestions to help stimulate diversity inclusion in future research.

“We emphasize the need for extensive disability awareness training for those facilitating psychedelic therapies and encourage psychedelic researchers and therapists to exercise cultural humility toward individuals with physical and sensory disabilities,” wrote the authors.

Here are their recommendations for psychedelic research organizations.

1. Meet and exceed the basic requirements of relevant disability rights legislation.

Psychedelic research groups should strive to meet and exceed the basic requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments of 2008, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and other legislation. By including experts in disability law on the team, current and future psychedelic therapy trials can strive to implement measures beyond what the law requires.

2. Engage in direct dialogue with individuals within disability communities about their thoughts and concerns related to psychedelic therapies.

By speaking to members of the disability community, researchers can best assess what accommodations are needed. Those accommodations should then be considered across all phases of research.

For example, a recent psychedelic trial for depression, anxiety, and demoralization among men who were older and long-term AIDS survivors utilized the expertise of consultants, which benefited the overall study design, execution, and analysis.

3. Incorporate disability awareness into training programs for guides who facilitate psychedelic therapies.

“Disability inclusion requires ongoing work,” wrote the authors.1 To ensure the best possible outcomes, training programs should include: discussion of disability rights history, the medical and social models of disability, the disability paradox, and the ethical issues arising from disability inclusion in psychedelic therapies, such as how to obtain informed consent, how to work with the caregivers of participants with disabilities in psychedelic therapies, and how to protect those with disabilities from harm and exploitation.

4. Demonstrate cultural humility toward people with disabilities.

Disability communities have experienced injustice from health care providers and researchers. It is paramount that individuals with disabilities are not seen as “guinea pigs” for experimentation. Additionally, the idea that these individuals need to be “cured” is ableist and wrong. To build trust with disability communities, researchers must be conscientious and transparent in their interactions.

Concluding Thoughts

Mintz et al asserted that “participants with physical and sensory disabilities should not merely be considered eligible but, also, actively recruited into psychedelic studies as both an intrinsic matter of justice and to expand the evidence base for treatments that will soon be broadly available.”1

Do you have any recommendations for how mental health clinicians can incorporate disability inclusion into practice? Tell us about it: PTEditor@MMHGroup.com.

References

1. Mintz KT, Gammer B, Khan AJ, et al. Physical disability and psychedelic therapies: an agenda for inclusive research and practice. Front Psychiatry. 2022;13:914458.

2. Anderson BT, Danforth A, Daroff PR, et al. Psilocybin-assisted group therapy for demoralized older long-term AIDS survivor men: an open-label safety and feasibility pilot study. EClinicalMedicine. 2020;27:100538.