HealthPop
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David W Freeman /

CBS News/ September 29, 2011, 11:18 AM

Magic mushrooms improve personality? What study says

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(CBS) Will "magic mushrooms" become the next medical marvel?

A groovy new study shows that even a single dose of the shrooms' active ingredient, psilocybin, can enhance people's sense of "openness." That's a term researchers use to mean imaginative, broad-minded, and sensitive to feelings and aesthetics.

The personality change seen in the study has researchers thinking psilocybin could be used to ease depression and anxiety in cancer patients, or maybe help longtime cigarette smokers kick the habit.

"There may be applications for this we can't even imagine at this point," study leader Dr. Roland R. Griffiths, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a written statement.

The study - published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology - showed that nearly 60 percent of 51 participants given psilocybin exhibited greater openness upon completing two to five eight-hour sessions with the hallucinogen. During each session, participants were encouraged to lie on a couch, listen to music through headphones, and wear an eye mask to block visual stimulation - and to direct their thoughts inward.

Not bad work if you can get it.

The personality change was seen in participants who had undergone what they considered a "mystical experience." Griffiths said such an experience involves "a sense of interconnectedness with all people and things accompanied by a sense of sacredness and reverence."

Maybe that's why the mushrooms - which grow in tropical and subtropical regions of South America, Mexico, and the U.S. - are sometimes called "God's flesh."

But not everyone mellowed out on the mushrooms. Griffiths said some participants reported strong fear or anxiety during their daylong trips, although no one experienced any lasting negative effects.

Most of the study participants said they participated regularly in religious services, prayer, or meditation, according to the statement. Would psilocybin prove beneficial for people who are less "spiritually active?"

"We don't know whether the findings can be generalized to the larger population," Griffith said.

And then there are the cops to consider. According to the website of the U.S. Justice Department's National Drug Intelligence Center, psilocybin is an illegal drug, classified as a Schedule I substance, along with heroin and LSD.

Bummer.

© 2011 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
7 Comments Add a Comment
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amerilatino says:
Mind-altering substances will just exacerbate any tendencies that you already have according to their chemistry. If you have anger issues or neuroses booze can make you a mean drunk, coke can bring out the narcissistic sociopath; if you are anxiety-filled or have low self-esteem weed can make you paranoid & depressed, conversely, the opposite is also true, many people who are well adapted and fundamentally healthy mentally can benefit from an otherwise unobtainable state of mind experience that well-controlled drug use can induce, the problem is that not all people fit that ideal hypothetical description and that addiction (psychological and/or physical)is always a risk, as the environment in which non-legal and legal self-medicated drugs (like alcohol) are used is seldom well-controlled.
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Rodeo_Joe says:
East Europeans of the Baltics have partaken of Magic Mushrooms for THOUSANDS of years. Lithuanians would even supply Saami shamans with the mushrooms before the demonization which Christendom instituted to the present.

Meanwhile, back in the forest, Tradition lives on.
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CMiller225 says:
It must be pointed out that the authors of this study engaged in unethical behavior in regards to one of their study subjects who had an adverse reaction to the first session, causing her to proclaim that "she would rather spend three lifetimes on a mountaintop meditating than repeat what she had just experienced during the session." What transpired in terms of the ensuing interactions between the clinical staff and this subject is not clear, but one month later "she
rated the experience as having slight spiritual significance and as having slightly increased her sense of well-being or life satisfaction." Are the authors so poorly grounded in concerns relating to ethical treatment of human subjects that they cannot see the problem here? It would be one matter if they were investigating a drug that induced cancer remission, and were encouraging the study participant to continue, but even in that scenario, study investigators must tread very lightly. Her first reaction to the experience should have immediately resulted in her removal from continued study, while still being included in the description of the study results.

Beyond the ethical concerns, the experiments were poorly controlled: 1) The independent raters were aware of the fact that all study participants received a drug 2) Someone who is willing to take hallucinogenic drugs is likely to be more open to chemically-induced spiritual experiences and reporting a long lasting benefit would be a likely bias of these subjects.

I'll quote from another example of the fuzzy thinking of the authors: "Considering the rarity of spontaneous mystical experiences in the general population, the finding that more than 70% of volunteers in the current study had "complete" mystical experiences suggests that most people have the capacity for such experiences under appropriate conditions and, therefore, such experiences are biologically normal." Huh? If a complete mystical experience is rare, how does a chemically-induced mystical experience make it "biologically normal"?

What strikes me as very odd about this work is the fact that the institution where the study took place (Johns Hopkins University) is one where investigators are very unlikely to succeed unless they bring in a lot of clinical money or research dollars. The relevance of this work to the average clinician is quite low, but there are organizations that would be highly interested in knowing if certain drugs can make people "more open" in a long-lasting sense, and I wouldn't be surprised if they are spending quite a bit of money to find out.
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Rodeo_Joe replies:
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Visit a Forest - unless, of course, they were destroyed for profit.

Experience the Balance, the Peace.
It's Free.
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dontdopsychedelics says:
I only took lsd once and it completely ruined my life. Seven years later I still see tracers, lights are too bright, and visual distortions (called hppd). On top of that I developed depersonalization and maybe derealization. I can barely even hold a job. It doesn't matter what type of psychedelic drug it is. Read the tragic stories on hppdonline.com or dpselfhelp.com if you don't believe me. The fact that they are publishing this is blasphemous.
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featherknife replies:
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It does matter what kind of psychedelic it is. It matters who you are before the experience as well. There are many factors. The great majority of users have had experiences similar to what is described in the article. I have taken it many times, and have always had very positive, transformative experiences. Shrooms are way beyond fun. They are a doorway to a spiritual experience otherwise unavailable to most people. Sorry you had a bad experience, but there may be more to that than one LSD trip. Also, ALL LSD is bootleg these days, and you actually have no idea what it was. Mushrooms , on the other hand, are.....well......mushrooms.
dontdopsychedelics replies:
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True it was not a blasphemous article. I thought I knew what that word meant haha. I was only 17 and I did have depression and anxiety at the time and didn't even know it. This along with being introverted does make a difference. I did shrooms a couple of times in low doses and felt amazing. Before my trip I was starting to get anxiety when smoking pot so that should have been my sign to not trip. Oh btw there is a movie called "Numb" with Matthew Perry that is the same thing except he messes his head up from smoking pot alone. This along with the forums I have read on those two websites confirms that it does not matter what type of psychedelic it is (even though marijuana is not a psychedelic).
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