Researchers at John Hopkins University have found that the active-ingredient in magic mushrooms (psilocybin) causes positive lasting changes in personality. The trait enhanced is ‘openness’ which “encompasses aesthetic appreciation and sensitivity, imagination and fantasy, and broad-minded tolerance of others’ viewpoints and values.”
The change towards openness was most noted in subjects who reported ‘mystical experiences’ as a result of the trial. Of the 51 participants, 30 had mystical experiences confirmed by a standardised means of assessing mystical 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.
“The remarkable piece is that psilocybin can facilitate experiences that change how people perceive themselves and their environment,” said Roland Griffiths, a study author and professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Johns Hopkins University of Medicine in Baltimore.
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.”
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.
Magic mushrooms grow in the wild in the UK. The season for ‘Liberty Caps’ (the native variety of magic mushrooms) is just starting, they are most commonly found in sheep fields. They have been used for thousands of years for personal development, but Labour made them completely illegal in 2005.