Many cultures have used psychoactive substances to obtain mystical experiences. Scientists have now explored the effects of such experiences on the long-term as to whether they have improved the psychological, emotional and spiritual well-being of those that have undergone this process.
A new study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacol The researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine wanted to see how “quantum change experiences” used with psychoactive substances such as magic mushrooms along with meditation resulted in the overall well-being of the subjects over a six month period.
“Quantum change experiences” is what psychologists refer to religious or mystical experiences. They define them as “sudden, distinctive, benevolent, and often profoundly meaningful experiences that are said to result in personal transformations that affect a broad range of personal emotions, cognitions and behaviors.”
Recent trials in psychologically distressed cancer patients have shown that the use of psilocybin did, in fact, decrease anxiety and depression and improved their quality of life for at least a month and maybe more.
During the study the scientists tested three different group scenarios, each group had 25 test subjects.
Each group received a different dose as well as different support mechanisms. These were low-dose/standard support, high-dose/standard support and high-dose/high support.
None of the test subjects had used psychoactive substances before and they were not previously using spiritual practices. They had to complete numerous questionnaires over the course of the study in regards to their attitude, moods, behavior and if they felt they have experienced any spiritual awareness. The tests subjects also had to name three people each from their life to observe them and feedback any differences they saw to the scientists. Thus giving overall subjective observations of the impact on the test subjects.
The participants were assessed on four different measures:
- Mystical, comprising items assessing internal and external unity, sacredness, and noetic feelings.
- Positive mood (e.g. joy, peace awe).
- Transcendence of time and space.
The study showed a large significant effect of psilocybin across a range of attitudes about life, attitudes about self, mood, altruism/positive social effects, behavior, and increased spirituality.
The two high-dose groups as to be expected attributed significantly greater personal meaning, spiritual significance, and change in well-being or life satisfaction to the psilocybin experience. As Emma Young writes for the British Psychological Society:
“The high-dose, the high-support group scored highest on all the scales. In some cases, such as life meaning and a rating of life “strivings” as being sacred or spiritual, they scored much higher. Unlike the high dose/standard support group, they also showed a big increase in trait forgiveness.”
“Contrary to popular beliefs that psychedelic experiences lead to rejection of traditional worldviews, in the current study […] items assessing respect for tradition, moderation of feelings and action, humility, accepting life’s circumstances, and holding a religious belief and faith [significantly increased]. It is plausible that administering psilocybin in the context of encouraging spiritual practices accounts for this effect, which is consistent with the observation that indigenous sacramental use of psilocybin-containing mushrooms, peyote, ayahuasca and other classic psychedelic containing substances is often strongly grounded in cultural traditions,” write the study authors.
As recently as May 2019 Denver moved to decriminalize psilocybin the ingredients found in magic mushrooms. There have long been conversations in the medical field that using substances that improve the feeling of well-being is of benefit to those who experience mental health conditions such as PTSD. If used in a controlled environment the benefits can only be a good thing rather than using chemically made products which we still have no real understanding of the long-term effects.
Magic mushrooms have been used for centuries during rituals and seeking a feeling of peace and calm.
Perhaps with these studies, we are finally seeing that nature has provided us with a way to live day to day with conditions that otherwise for some ruin their lives.