Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance
- 7.4k Downloads
Although psilocybin has been used for centuries for religious purposes, little is known scientifically about its acute and persisting effects.
This double-blind study evaluated the acute and longer-term psychological effects of a high dose of psilocybin relative to a comparison compound administered under comfortable, supportive conditions.
Materials and methods
The participants were hallucinogen-naïve adults reporting regular participation in religious or spiritual activities. Two or three sessions were conducted at 2-month intervals. Thirty volunteers received orally administered psilocybin (30 mg/70 kg) and methylphenidate hydrochloride (40 mg/70 kg) in counterbalanced order. To obscure the study design, six additional volunteers received methylphenidate in the first two sessions and unblinded psilocybin in a third session. The 8-h sessions were conducted individually. Volunteers were encouraged to close their eyes and direct their attention inward. Study monitors rated volunteers’ behavior during sessions. Volunteers completed questionnaires assessing drug effects and mystical experience immediately after and 2 months after sessions. Community observers rated changes in the volunteer’s attitudes and behavior.
Psilocybin produced a range of acute perceptual changes, subjective experiences, and labile moods including anxiety. Psilocybin also increased measures of mystical experience. At 2 months, the volunteers rated the psilocybin experience as having substantial personal meaning and spiritual significance and attributed to the experience sustained positive changes in attitudes and behavior consistent with changes rated by community observers.
When administered under supportive conditions, psilocybin occasioned experiences similar to spontaneously occurring mystical experiences. The ability to occasion such experiences prospectively will allow rigorous scientific investigations of their causes and consequences.
KeywordsPsilocybin Methylphenidate Hallucinogen Entheogen Mystical experience Spiritual Religion Anxiety Humans
This research was supported by grants from NIDA (R01 DA03889) and the Council on Spiritual Practices. We thank Dave Nichols, Ph.D., for synthesizing the psilocybin, Mary Cosimano, M.A., for her role as assistant monitor, Brian Richards, Psy.D. and Kori Kindbom, M.A., for psychiatric screening, Heather Cronin for data management, Paul Nuzzo, M.A., for statistical analysis, Matthew W. Johnson, Ph.D., for discussions about the data, and Dr. George Bigelow, Dr. Eric Strain, Dr. Maxine Stitizer, and Dr. Larry Carter for comments on the manuscript. The study was conducted in compliance with US laws.
- Costa PT, McCrae RR (1992) Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R) and NEO Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI) professional manual. Psychological Assessment Resources, Odessa, FLGoogle Scholar
- Dobkin de Rios M, Janiger O (2003) LSD spirituality and the creative process. Park Street, Rochester, VTGoogle Scholar
- Doblin R (1991) Pahnke’s Good Friday experiment: a long-term follow-up and methodological critique. J Transpers Psychol 23:1–28Google Scholar
- Gouzoulis-Mayfrank E, Thelen B, Habermeyer E, Kunert HJ, Kovar KA, Lindenblatt H, Hermle L, Spitzer M, Sass H (1999) Psychopathological, neuroendocrine and autonomic effects of 3,4-methylenedioxyethylamphetamine (MDE), psilocybin and d-methamphetamine in healthy volunteers. Results of an experimental double-blind placebo-controlled study. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 142:41–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Griffiths RR, Bigelow GE, Henningfield JE (1980) Similarities in animal and human drug-taking behavior. In: Mello NK (ed) Advances in substance abuse, vol 1. JAI, Greenwich, pp 1–90Google Scholar
- Jasinski DR (1977) Assessment of the abuse potential of morphine-like drugs (methods used in man). In: Martin WR (ed) Drug addiction. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 197–258Google Scholar
- Leuner H (1981) Halluzinogene psychische grenzzustande in forschung und psychotherapie. Hans Huber, BernGoogle Scholar
- Masters REL, Houston J (1966) The varieties of psychedelic experience. Holt Rinehart & Winston, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Metzner R (2004) Teonanacatl: sacred mushroom of visions. Four Tree, El Verano, CAGoogle Scholar
- Metzner R, Litwin G, Weil G (1965) The relation of expectation and mood to psilocybin reactions: a questionnaire study. Psychedelic Rev 5:3–39Google Scholar
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (2001) Hallucinogens and dissociative drugs. National Institute on Drug Abuse research report series, NIH publication, volume 01-4209Google Scholar
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (2005) LSD NIDA infofacts. National Institute on Drug Abuse, Rockville, MD, February 2005Google Scholar
- Pahnke W (1963) Drugs and mysticism: an analysis of the relationship between psychedelic drugs and the mystical consciousness. Ph.D. thesis, Harvard UniversityGoogle Scholar
- Pahnke WN (1967) LSD and religious experience. In: DeBold RC, Leaf RC (eds) LSD man & society. Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, CT, pp 60–85Google Scholar
- Piedmont RL (2005) Aspires assessment of spirituality and religious sentiments. Technical Manual, Loyola College in Maryland, Columbia, MDGoogle Scholar
- Piedmont RL (2006) Cross-cultural generalizability of the Spiritual Transcendence Scale to the Philippines: spirituality as a universal. Ment Health Relig Cult (In press)Google Scholar
- Presti DE, Nichols DE (2004) Biochemistry and neuropharmacology of psilocybin mushrooms. In: Metzner R, Darling DC (eds) Teonanacatl. Four Trees, El Verano, CA, pp 89–108Google Scholar
- Richards WA (1975) Counseling, peak experiences and the human encounter with death: an empirical study of the efficacy of DPT-assisted counseling in enhancing the quality of life of persons with terminal cancer and their closest family members. Ph.D. thesis, Catholic University of America, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
- Richards WA, Rhead JC, DiLeo FB, Yensen R, Kurland AA (1977) The peak experience variable in DPT-assisted psychotherapy with cancer patients. J Psychedelic Drugs 9:1–10Google Scholar
- Roberts TB (2001) Psychoactive sacramentals: essays on entheogens and religion. Council on Spiritual Practices, San Francisco, CAGoogle Scholar
- Smith H (2000) Cleansing the doors of perception: the religious significance of entheogenic plants and chemicals. Tarcher/Putnam, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Spilka B, Hood RW, Hunsberger B, Gorsuch R (2005) The psychology of religion: an empirical approach, 3rd edn. Guilford, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Stace WT (1960) Mysticism and philosophy. Lippincott, PhiladelphiaGoogle Scholar
- Stamets P (1996) Psilocybin mushrooms of the world: an identification guide. Ten Speed, Berkeley, CAGoogle Scholar
- Stolaroff MJ (2001) A protocol for a sacramental service. In: Roberts TB (ed) Psychoactive sacramentals: essays on entheogens and religion. Council on Spiritual Practices, San Francisco, CAGoogle Scholar
- Turek IS, Soskin RA, Kurland AA (1974) Methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA) subjective effects. J Psychedelic Drugs 6:7–14Google Scholar
- Wasson RG (1980) The wondrous mushroom: mycolatry in Mesoamerica. McGraw-Hill, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Watson D, Clark LA (1994) The PANAS-X manual for the positive and negative affect schedule—expanded form. The University of Iowa, Iowa City, IowaGoogle Scholar
- Wulff DM (1991) Psychology of religion; classic and contemporary views. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar