It appears that the hippies of the ‘60s were on to something when they enthusiastically promoted the use of hallucinogenic drugs.
A new study conducted by Johns Hopkins University found that a single dose of psilocybin—the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms”—may create a lasting, positive personality change in certain individuals. This is the first major study conducted on a psychedelic drug in about 40 years in the United States, according to Bloomberg.
For the experiment, volunteers considered “psychologically healthy” were placed into a controlled environment and given doses of the drug, according to Hopkins Medicine. During the various sessions, participants were asked to lie down and use an eye mask in hopes of blocking any external distraction. They also wore headphones and listened to music. The intent here was to have the subjects focus on their inner subjective experiences.
Out of the 51 participants in the study, about 60 percent stated that they felt that their personality had been altered after being given a single high dose of the drug, according to Hopkins Medicine. Psychology Journal Researchers used the Big Five personality test, a widely used and scientifically validated test, to gauge any significant changes in participants.
Researchers found that though four of the five areas of personality—neuroticism, extroversion, agreeableness and conscientiousness—remained unchanged after the experiment, the area of the test that deals with “openness” changed somewhat dramatically.
The openness section of the personality test deals with traits such as imagination and abstract ideas. Though researchers uphold that personality doesn’t usually change much after the age of 30, the change in several participants was of greater magnitude than changes usually observed in adults over decades of living, according to the study.
“Normally, if anything, openness tends to decrease as people get older,” Roland R. Griffiths, a professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University, stated on the university’s website. Thus, the fact that openness increased within the subjects is quite significant.
The study found that individuals who had undergone a “mystical experience,” were particularly altered by the drug. Griffiths defines “mystical experience” as something akin to “a sense of interconnectedness with all people and things accompanied by a sense of sacredness and reverence,” as stated on the Johns Hopkins website.
Speaking on Griffiths’ approach, Charles Grob, professor of psychiatry at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine, told WebMD, “What’s so fascinating is that he’s demonstrating that what might be a one-time only experience may reliably induce these very powerful spiritual-level states, and they do appear to have sustained impact on people and personality.”
He added, “That’s very, very unusual in psychiatry. We don’t necessarily expect to see changes in these domains with our treatment.”
According to Time Magazine, Griffiths conducted a similar study in which 18 healthy adults participated in five, eight-hour drug sessions with psilocybin. Around 14 months after the study was conducted, 94 percent of those who were participants stated that the experiment was one of the top five most meaningful experiences they’ve ever had. Thirty-nine percent said it was the most.
Indeed, continued testing is showing that personality improvements due to psilocybin have lasted for about a year. This caused Griffiths to believe these changes could very well turn out to be permanent. “These occur in the natural population. There are people who have mystical experiences and transforming moments where their lives are changed forever more,” Griffiths told WebMD.
He also went on to state that he believes psilocybin may have therapeutic uses and can be used to aid terminally ill patients battling with depression or anxiety. “There may be applications for this we can’t even imagine at this point,” he said on the John Hopkins website. “It certainly deserves to be systematically studied.”
More To Read: