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Replication and extension of a model predicting response to psilocybin



Recent research demonstrated the potential of psychedelic drugs as treatment for depression and death-related anxiety and as an enhancement for well-being. While generally positive, responses to psychedelic drugs can vary according to traits, setting, and mental state (set) before and during ingestion. Most earlier models explain minimal response variation, primarily related to dosage and trust, but a recent study found that states of surrender and preoccupation at the time of ingestion explained substantial variance in mystical and adverse psilocybin experiences.


The current study sought to replicate the previous model, extend the model with additional predictors, and examine the role of mystical experience on positive change.


A hierarchical regression model was created with crowdsourced retrospective data from 183 individuals who had self-administered psilocybin in the past year. Scales explored mental states before, during, and after psilocybin ingestion, relying on open-ended memory prompts at each juncture to trigger recollections. Controlled drug administration was not employed.


This study replicated the previous model, finding a state of surrender before ingestion a key predictor of optimal experience and preoccupation a key predictor of adverse experience. Additional predictors added to the explanatory power for optimal and adverse experience. The model supported the importance of mystical experiences to long-term change.


Mental states of surrender or preoccupation at the time of ingestion explain variance in mystical or adverse psilocybin experiences, and mystical experiences relate to long-term positive change. The capacity to recognize this optimal preparatory mental state may benefit therapeutic use of psilocybin in clinical settings.

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The authors wish to acknowledge Dr. Auke Tellegen’s contributions to the conceptualization of this study.


The authors received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

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Correspondence to Suzanne L. Russ.

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Ethical review

This study was approved by the Institutional Review Board at Dickinson State University on May 5, 2016 and assigned ID number DSU201604.

Conflict of interest

In April 2017, months after this study was complete, Eleusis, Inc. purchased rights to include the surrender scale as part of an algorithm to predict response to psychedelic therapy. No financial support was received for conducting this study. The authors attest to the integrity of the data and analysis and can provide raw data in direct download from the survey source to support this statement.

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Russ, S.L., Carhart-Harris, R.L., Maruyama, G. et al. Replication and extension of a model predicting response to psilocybin. Psychopharmacology 236, 3221–3230 (2019).

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  • Psilocybin
  • Psychedelic
  • Surrender
  • Mystical experience