We all understand that drug use temporarily changes the way we think. Substances such as marijuana can create a sense of euphoria paired with an easy-going type of personality, and cocaine can cause racing thoughts and heightened energy. Other drugs, such as hallucinogenic mushrooms can also cause similar effects. In fact, the substances lovingly called “magic mushroom” can leave the user with a sense of openness, maybe even permanently.
So, what are we saying, exactly?
There is a chemical inside certain hallucinogenic mushrooms that causes the “high” sensation. This chemical, psilocybin, can actually cause a marked personality change that lasts for about a year. This was discovered by John Hopkins researchers while studying the effects of the mushrooms on 50 various participants familiar with drug sessions.
These permanent changes were seen in the area that controls “openness” of the personality. This openness refers to imagination, feelings, abstract ideas and even spirituality. Results also showed a larger difference in personality than with studies of those who endured an entire lifetime of usage.
These same effects were much less pronounced in those over 30, which easily explains this phenomena. According to Roland R. Griffiths, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at John Hopkins University School of medicine, those over 30 also showed to have a decrease in openness even when drug free, and with the drug, they were much less affected. It seems that psilocybin can definitely help us have an open mind, but has a much harder job with the older generation.
Tests were performed two–five times with eight-hour drug sessions during the week, and after three more weeks, the tests were repeated. The highly hallucinogenic psilocybin was administered during the session unbeknownst to the participants. Other sensory outlets were also blocked, allowing the effects to show more clearly in the thought processes. Participants were asked to lie down and listen to music while wearing eye masks, while coached to focus their thoughts on inner feelings. Results of this amazing research were published in the journal of Psychopharmacology and approved by the John Hopkins Institutional Review Board.
After one or two months of these consecutive drug sessions, the personality was assessed. The results of the tests were said to be permanent.
Almost all of the participants were said to be previously spiritually active or had previous experience with “mystical happenings”, while half of them had postgraduate degrees. In other words, these were mentally healthy individuals from the beginning. Although during the tests, Griffiths said, there were temporary feelings of anxiety and fear, these feelings soon passed when discontinued. Each post-test personality was also measured against the four basic personality domains including neuroticism, extroversion, agreeableness and conscientiousness. Only openness showed a drastic change during the tests.
Real uses of this research
Medicine may take advantage of these findings-offering sedatives for those with cancer diagnoses. During the news of this ailment, patients often struggle with depression and anxiety, thus the feeling of openness can greatly hast healing and comfort. Research has also found that psilocybin can help relieve symptoms of cigarette withdrawal as well. The study has been funded by the Council of Spiritual Practices, The Heffter Research Institute and the Betsy Gordon Foundation, and the researchers are hopeful that these findings can prove beneficial in many other areas as well.