Susan Snycerski

Susan Snycerski



Drugs, Psychoactive Drugs, Psychedelics, Motivation, Sport Fan Behavior, Sports Marketing, Drugs and Society.

Current Research Activities

I have two main lines of research that include undergraduate and graduate students, as well as former students and current colleagues. One of my main areas of study focuses on psychoactive drug use in general and psychedelic drug use in particular. Some general questions related to psychoactive drugs is the general public’s knowledge and acceptance of these drugs in different contexts. For example, we have conducted several studies on the public’s perceptions and attitudes towards professional athletes’ use of cannabis for medical use (e.g., for pain control), psychological use (e.g., to treat anxiety or depression symptoms), or recreational use (e.g., “just for fun”). In general, our participants have reported more favorable views regarding medical and psychological use compared to recreational use. In my Cultural Pharmacology Laboratory, we are also studying the general public’s perceptions and attitudes toward the psychedelic drug psilocybin (commonly referred to as “magic mushrooms”) for clinical, spiritual, and recreational use. Those data are currently being analyzed. A second primary, and sometimes related, line of research is in the broad area of sports marketing and sports’ fan behaviors. An example of a study that includes both lines of research investigated the relationship between alcohol use and violent acts in sports fans. With respect to a study that focused only on the second line, we developed novel conceptualizations of sport fan behavior in the context of sports rivalries. We have presented our sport fan behavior studies at regional, national, and international conferences. A secondary line of research involves my continued work in the field of motivation, specifically, the Motivating Operations Concept (MOC,) through my publications and teachings in my labs and classes. 


Research Connections to Current Events

The use of psychoactive drugs is ubiquitous. From recreational to therapeutic use, psychoactive drugs deserve to be studied for their effects on individuals and society. In recent years, there has been a resurgence in psychedelic-assisted therapy, including drugs such psilocybin, MDMA, and LSD. While there is growing evidence that these drugs can be effective in treating psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression, much research remains to be done with respect to their safety and effectiveness. With the increase in clinical trials investigating the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs and efforts to decriminalize them for personal use across the US, our lab has begun to examine the general public’s knowledge and acceptance of psychedelics under a variety of conditions. Given that psychedelic drugs have been demonized in the past, we are interested to see if the resurgence of their therapeutic and personal use has changed the way the general public views psychedelic drugs today. Regarding our work with sport fan behavior, the sport world is a billion-dollar industry and sport fans contribute to that economy in a variety of ways. Our research on sport fan behavior illuminates how fans view athletes’ behaviors, how they intend to spend their money on sporting events and goods, and how they choose to spend their time engaging with sports. Our research has examined fans from the NHL, MBL, NBA, NFL, and the Spanish soccer league, La Liga. 


Personal Connections to Research

I have been studying psychoactive drugs since graduate school when I studied the effects of drugs of abuse (e.g., cocaine, morphine, MDMA, GHB) on learning, memory, and motivation in animal models. Since joining SJSU in 2005, my interests have evolved along with the changes in the increased examination of psychedelic drugs. Because SJSU does not have the resources to support animal research, I refocused by research program to include survey and non-drug experimental research with human participants. One local organization, the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and its founder and president Dr. Rick Doblin, is one inspiration for my lines of research. In recent years, MAPS has sponsored clinical trials examining the use of psychedelic drugs for the treatment of PTSD, among other conditions. The FDA has designated their MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD as a Breakthrough Therapy. MAPS, prominent universities (e.g., Johns Hopkins, UCLA), and advocacy organizations have conducted or plan to conduct clinical trials research into the use of psychedelics to treat mental disorders. Another person who inspired my interest in the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs was Dr. Roland Griffiths. Dr. Griffiths pioneered the scientific investigation of the cognitive, behavioral, emotional, and clinical effects of psychedelics. I had the great privilege to interview both Dr. Doblin and Dr. Griffiths. Sadly, Dr. Griffiths recently died after a battle with cancer. Before his passing, he underwent psychedelic therapy for end-of-life trauma and reported his first-hand experience, which was unique because he was an expert in the field and a patient. The work of Dr. Doblin and Dr. Griffiths has inspired a reexamination of the potential uses of psychedelic drugs for therapeutic uses. It is exciting to see these drugs get more balanced and nuanced attention they deserve by the medical community and government regulators. 


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