Discover Magazine’s 80Beats Science blog has a recent piece that should cheer anybody who ever did mushrooms back in college.
It seems a recent study done at the Johns Hopkins Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences showed that the classic hallucinogen psilocybin caused “personally and spiritually significant mystical experiences that predict long-term changes in behaviors, attitudes and values.”
Mystical experiences, yes. But long-term openness?
Maybe “turn on, tune in, drop out” guru Timothy Leary got more than he bargained for.
Most scientists have thought our personality traits were pretty well set by the time we’re 30.
The Hopkins researchers found that their experiment lab-administered psilocybin “was linked to” (careful scientists don’t often say “caused”) long-lasting improvements in study participants’ relationships, mood and general well-being.
How They Did It
Researchers divided the 52 participants into two groups: those who had a “complete mystical experience,” and those who did not. Though all of them were screened ahead of time for psychic disorders, staff members were there in case anyone became upset.
During the experiment patients sat in a comfortable room, wore eye-shades, and were told to focus their thoughts inward.
Half of them reported feeling “a sense of unity with the world and other people; feelings of blessedness and sacredness; a sense of inner presence or divine force; and the feeling that what is perceived is ‘more real’ than ordinary reality.”
Sounds appealing, doesn’t it?
The Hopkins researchers do admit that some or all of those feelings can result from things other than magic mushrooms — prayer, fasting, sex, and sensory deprivation for example.
How long the feelings last is another question.
Obviously, the researchers have given the usual “don’t try this at home” warning.
Just as obviously, psilocybin remains illegal as a recreational drug. If you want to do any experimenting on your own, you’ll need permission from the Feds.
Does psilocybin really have the power to make people more open? Will it ever be used to treat psychiatric conditions like anxiety or depression?
Stay tuned. And keep reading 80Beats; there’s bound to be a follow up to this one.
As one reader commented, “When I have taken small groups of shrums I have bonded with them.
“And everything else in the universe.”