A Recent Study Has Shown That A Single High Dose Of The Hallucinogen Psilocybin aka Magic Mushrooms Brought About Measurable Personality Changes In Nearly 60% Of Participants

Psilocybe mexicana is one of over 200 species of mushroom in which psilocybin can be found.

The study measured personality changes in 51 participants who were given high does of the hallucinogen psilocybin.  Better known to many as “Magic Mushrooms,” psilocybin is a compound that occurs naturally  in varying concentrations in over 200 species of Basidiomycota mushrooms.  Documentation of human usage goes back thousands of years and includes Mayan depictions of ceremonies involving hallucinogens, rock art in the Spanish village of Vilar del Humo that was created over 6,000 years ago offers evidence that Psilocybe hispanica was used in religious rituals, and murals dating from 7000 to 9000 BCE have been found in the Sahara desert in southeast Algeria and  suggest prehistoric usage of psilocybin mushrooms.

Hallucinogens, including psilocybin, were often used in shamanistic cultures where shamans or similar leaders would ingest them to engage in spirit quests that would offer glimpses of the culture’s gods and provide insight into its history and future.

For a substance that has been featured with such prominence throughout human history, we know very little about it.  The Johns Hopkins study is a start, but it’s conclusions — e.g. participants in the study who displayed showed measurable personal changes all reported having “mystical experience[s]” — are far from groundbreaking;  many college students or Phish followers would likely report similar findings (albeit, perhaps not as scientifically:  “Dude, you see all these colors and things moving and it makes you feel like, you know, how amazing the world is and how interconnected everything is, but that we’re, like, pretty insignificant.”).

Hopefully the John’s Hopkin’s study will fuel further inquiry into hallucinogens and people respond to them.  An except from the study is included below as well as a link to the full summary:

A single high dose of the hallucinogen psilocybin, the active ingredient in so-called “magic mushrooms,” was enough to bring about a measureable personality change lasting at least a year in nearly 60 percent of the 51 participants in a new study, according to the Johns Hopkins researchers who conducted it.

Lasting change was found in the part of the personality known as openness, which includes traits related to imagination, aesthetics, feelings, abstract ideas and general broad-mindedness. Changes in these traits, measured on a widely used and scientifically validated personality inventory, 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.
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.
The study participants completed two to five eight-hour drug sessions, with consecutive sessions separated by at least three weeks. Participants were informed they would receive a “moderate or high dose” of psilocybin during one of their drug sessions, but neither they nor the session monitors knew when

Lasting change was found in the part of the personality known as openness, which includes traits related to imagination, aesthetics, feelings, abstract ideas and general broad-mindedness. Changes in these traits, measured on a widely used and scientifically validated personality inventory, 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.

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.

The study participants completed two to five eight-hour drug sessions, with consecutive sessions separated by at least three weeks. Participants were informed they would receive a “moderate or high dose” of psilocybin during one of their drug sessions, but neither they nor the session monitors knew when.

Full summary here.

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