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  • Writer's pictureSteven Huang

Physical Disability & Psychedelic Therapies

Research by: Kevin T. Mintz, Brinn Gammer, Amanda J. Khan, Gretchen Shaub, Steven Levine

and Dominic Sisti


Psychedelic research organizations have two options:

  1. Prioritize and plan for the inclusion of people with disabilities to address the mental health burdens they confront. Or,

  2. Reinforce structural ableism in healthcare through the discriminatory manifestation of lowered expectations towards people with disabilities.

It seems like an easy choice, but the reality is that the medical research field has a lot of barriers for people with disabilities. A commonly cited concern is that many disabilities interfere with the ability to provide informed consent. Another one is that studies exclude people with underlying health conditions. But as a matter of justice and to expand the evidence base for treatments, people with disabilities must be explicitly included in psychedelic trials.

The research paper addresses the disability paradox: the disparity between how medical providers perceive the quality of life of patients with disabilities compared to how many patients with disabilities report having a similar or higher quality of life than non-disabled patients. Behind this paradox is the difference between the medical model and social model of disability:

  • The medical model posits that disability is a pathology worthy of treatment or cure.

  • The social model posits that disability is a result of an interaction between an impairment and inaccessible environments that limits opportunities for those living with their impairment.


Understanding the disability paradox and the medical vs. social model of disability is at the crux of the researcher's recommendations:

  1. Psychedelic research groups need to meet basic requirements of the ADA Amendments act; and go beyond what the law requires as it is a rapidly evolving field

  2. Psychedelic research groups should engage in direct dialogue with individuals about their perceptions, concerns and access barriers related to psychedelic therapies. If people with disabilities are going to be included in trials, noting any history of medical discrimination as part of the intake would bring awareness to the research setting that could be activating for a participant - and an opportunity to provide collaborative strengths-based corrective experiences.

  3. Psychedelic research groups should incorporate disability awareness into existing training programs for guides who facilitate psychedelic therapies

  4. Psychedelic research groups should demonstrate cultural humility. The disability community has endured considerable injustices on the part of healthcare providers. The same energy we put on ensuring cultural humility across race/ethnicity, sexual orientation and other identity factors should be put towards disability.


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