September 29, 2011
Lasting Happiness Found With Hallucinogen Use?
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine studying psilocybin, the mind-altering chemical in “magic mushrooms,” found that the chemical may actually alter people´s personalities for a long period of time, ABC News is reporting.
The study involved one high dose of psilocybin administered to 51 adult study participants and found that 30 of them underwent measurable personality changes lasting more than a year. The aspect of personality that changed is known as openness.
Openness, the authors wrote, “encompasses aesthetic appreciation and sensitivity, imagination and fantasy, and broad-minded tolerance of others´ viewpoints and values.”
Measured on a widely used and scientifically validated personality inventory, changes in openness were larger in magnitude than changes typically observed in healthy adults over decades of life experiences, the scientists say.
Researchers in the field say that after the age of 30, personality doesn´t usually change significantly. “Normally, if anything, openness tends to decrease as people get older,” says study leader Roland R. Griffiths, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Participants completed a personality questionnaire before the study began, about a month after the study and then again 14 months later, and the people who became more open also had a “complete mystical experience,” while the others whose personalities did not change had no similar experience.
“The mystical experience has certain qualities,” MacLean said. “The primary one is that you feel a certain kind of connectedness and unity with everything and everyone.” People also reported feelings of joy, MacLean said.
The study participants completed two to five eight-hour psilocybin sessions, with consecutive sessions separated by at least three weeks. Participants were informed they would receive a “moderate or high dose” of the drug during one of their sessions, but neither they nor the session monitors knew when.
Participants were encouraged to lie down on a couch, wearing eye masks to block external visual distraction and listen to music through headphones focusing their attention on their inner experiences.
Griffiths believes psilocybin may have therapeutic uses and is currently studying whether the hallucinogen has a use in helping cancer patients handle the depression and anxiety that comes along with a diagnosis. It is also being studied for possibly aiding longtime cigarette smokers overcome their addiction.
“There may be applications for this we can´t even imagine at this point,” he says. “It certainly deserves to be systematically studied.”
In use only in the strictest settings, psilocybin is an illegal drug that can only be manufactured in facilities certified by the DEA who considers it a Schedule 1 drug, with a high potential for abuse, has no medically accepted use and isn´t considered safe to use under medical supervision. Ross said under the right conditions, psilocybin is safe with no known toxic effects.
The research, approved by Johns Hopkins' Institutional Review Board, was funded in part by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
Image Caption: Researchers found that the chemical psilocybin - found in "magic mushrooms" - may actually alter people´s personalities for a long period of time. Photo Credit: Dudarev Mikhail / Shutterstock
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