Student Profile: Gabrielle Lehigh

Here is the latest installment of ADTSG’s student profiles feature!

These profiles are a way for the ADTSG membership to become acquainted with the next generation of anthropologists of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco.  In this vein, each profile will introduce one graduate or undergraduate student to the group by asking them a series of questions related to their background and career aspirations in this field.

In this installment, we are profiling Gabrielle Lehigh, a Ph.D. student from the University of South Florida.

Why did you choose to study anthropology?

When I started my undergraduate degree, I didn’t know I wanted to study anthropology. I just knew I wanted to do something that helped people. With the direction of an English professor, I took an anthropology course in my second semester and fell in love. My first exposure to anthropology was very insightful and opened my mind to critical thinking. It made me challenge deep-seated notions of truth, reality, and what it means to be human. This first introduction also made me see the concept of diversity in a more tangible way. I was able to conceptualize that each person is uniquely different from every other person. This also means that every person’s perspective of reality and what it means to be human is distinct from anyone else’s. Essentially this means there is an infinite number of possible life experiences, and I wanted to study all of them. Anthropology gives me a framework for being able to learn about many life experiences while also helping me to share the beauty of human diversity with the rest of the world. So, in many ways, anthropology feeds my inquisitive nature to learn about everything and anything. At the same time, anthropology gives me the tools for identifying and addressing real-world social problems, which allows me to meet my goal of helping people.

Why are you interested in alcohol, drugs, and tobacco research?

I am interested in the non-clinical use of psychedelics. There is an exceptional amount of clinical research on the medical benefits of psychedelics, which is very important for expanding access to treatment. At the same time, even with expanded medical access, many populations will be unable to access these treatments. Insurance coverage, social stigma, distrust in the medical system, and various other factors will inhibit accessibility. The purpose of my research is to inform harm reduction practices for non-clinical psychedelic use and advocate for expanded access for all populations outside of clinical settings.

What are your research plans for studying alcohol, drugs, and tobacco?

My dissertation research examines alternative psychedelic uses and practices. Specifically, my project looks at non-clinical psychedelic use, such as spiritual, recreational, and medicinal practices. The goal of my research is to collect ethnographic narratives of psychedelic use in a diversity of settings. My research will use these narratives to identify variables, such as set and setting, that may influence different types of psychedelic experiences. Some of my research questions are how do individuals and groups of people use psychedelics, what factors contribute to various outcomes of psychedelic use, and how do psychedelic users define beneficial and averse psychedelic experiences? With this information, the project aims to inform harm reduction strategies and policies for non-clinical psychedelic use.

What do you hope to do after you graduate?

I would love to continue studying the alternative uses of psychedelics to inform policy and practice. I am also interested in developing new perspectives of psychedelics as a way to expand human consciousness. I think there is value in looking at the power of psychedelics to alter perspectives of humanism and humanity. To do this, I want to develop research that examines the effects of psychedelics in novel settings, such as astronauts in space or athletes performing in extreme sports.

If you are an anthropology student and would like to be profiled for the ADTSG website, please contact ADTSG’s Student Liaison, Breanne Casper, at casperb@mail.usf.edu for more information!

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