Categories: Arts & Culture Colleges & Campus Medicine Research

Research in 60 Seconds: How Taking Psychedelics Can Be Therapeutic

Whether it’s solving the world’s biggest problems or investigating the potential of novel discoveries, researchers at UCF are on the edge scientific breakthroughs that aim to make an impact. Through the Research in 60 Seconds series, student and faculty researchers condense their complex studies into bite-sized summaries so you can know how and why Knights plan to improve our world.

Name: Shana Harris
Positions: Assistant professor of anthropology in the College of Sciences  with a secondary joint appointment as an assistant professor of internal medicine in the College of Medicine.

Why are you interested in this research?
Over the last two decades, there has been a marked increase in research into the therapeutic possibilities of psychedelics. We are also seeing more and more people, especially in the global North, seeking out these substances for all kinds of reasons, including to treat drug problems.

As someone who has researched drug use practices, policies and interventions for over 20 years, I am fascinated by the growing uptake in using psychedelics for drug treatment. It raises so many questions for me as an anthropologist: How and where is such treatment being offered? Who is seeking it out? Who is providing it? What does it look like? Why are people interested in psychedelic-based drug treatment instead of more mainstream treatments? All of these questions (and more) are challenging my assumptions about drug treatment and what counts as “therapeutic” in this context, and that is exciting.

Who inspires you to conduct your research?
Above all, I am inspired by my research participants. Their willingness to speak so openly with me and to allow me into their space is invaluable as a researcher. But it also incredibly meaningful and heartening that they feel comfortable enough to tell me about their lives and to share their experiences with me (good, bad and everything in between). They teach me so much just by being themselves and letting me tag along for the ride.

Are you a faculty member or student conducting research at UCF? We want to hear from you! Tell us about your research at bit.ly/ucf-research-60-form.

How does UCF empower you to do your research?
I have benefited greatly from many opportunities offered at UCF to support my research. I have received significant mentoring from senior and other women faculty, as well as financial and technical support from my departments, college and the university.  As an assistant professor,

I also had the rare pre-tenure opportunity to conduct fieldwork in Mexico for a year, which was essential for advancing my research.

What major grants and honors have you earned to support your research?
I am very lucky to have received research grants from several institutions (public, private and nonprofit). Most recently, I have been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research and the Florida Education Fund. Without their generous support, my research would not be possible.

Why is this research important?
My research is important because people are using and providing psychedelics for therapeutic reasons, whether we like it or not. They believe these substances can help, and perhaps they provide people with something that mainstream treatments do not. I want my work to be a platform for conversation about this complicated phenomenon and the people engaged in it. I believe [psychedelics for therapeutic reasons] deserve consideration, not condemnation.

How to Get Involved with Research at UCF

  • F-LEARN @ UCF: A living-learning community for STEM students entering UCF from high school that provides hands-on early research opportunity for academic success.
  • Getting Started Workshops: The Office of Research hosts workshops that inform students about how to get started in research and find a faculty member to work with and the first steps on getting started in research.
  • Honors Undergraduate Thesis: Over the course of two to four semesters, students work closely with a faculty committee to research, write, defend, and publish an original thesis that serves as an honors capstone product of their undergraduate career.
  • Introduction to Research and Creative Scholarship Opportunities (INTRO) Mentoring Program: A semester-long immersive, classroom experience offered in fall and spring semesters that provides students ways to get connected to research opportunities. This program is available in person or online.
  • Office of Undergraduate Research: OUR is dedicated to cultivating and supporting world-class research at UCF. Students can connect with the office for any questions they may have about research or to find opportunities.
  • Peer Mentoring: This program connects students with experienced undergraduate researchers who will provide guidance on how to get started and get support through research experiences.
  • Research Positions Database: This online resource allows students to discover research opportunities with UCF researchers across various disciplines. Please note faculty contact information is password protected, but students can gain access by attending a peer mentoring session, completing the Research Roadmaps webcourse, and through other engagement opportunities.
  • Research Roadmaps Webcourse: The is an online, non-credit, self-paced course that introduces students to research opportunities at UCF. It provides the same information as peer mentoring sessions or a workshop, but at your own pace. Completion of this course also provides you access to the Research Positions Database.
  • SONA: This is a research participation system that allows students who are looking to become participants in studies, usually in exchange for course credit, to find opportunities. The College of Health Professions and Sciences, College of Business and Department of Psychology are among some of the units at UCF that list opportunities here.
  • Summer Research Academy: A three-day event in July that’s designed to support UCF undergraduate students across all majors who are interested in participating in research and creative scholarship. This is an ideal opportunity for students who want to begin research in the fall.
  • T-LEARN @ UCF: A living-learning community for first-year, transfer students at UCF who have already earned an Associate in Arts degree. T-LEARN provides a select group of students interested in STEM hands-on learning experiences by helping them engage in research.

Are you a faculty member or student conducting research at UCF? We want to hear from you! Tell us about your research at bit.ly/ucf-research-60-form.

Nicole Dudenhoefer ’17 | Video by UCF Social
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