Single dose of hallucinogen may create lasting personality change

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, 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 , 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 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 .

The 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.

During each session, participants were encouraged to lie down on a couch, use an eye mask to block external visual distraction, wear headphones through which music was played and focus their attention on their inner experiences.

Personality was assessed at screening, one to two months after each drug session and approximately 14 months after the last drug session. Griffiths says he believes the personality changes found in this study are likely permanent since they were sustained for over a year by many.

Nearly all of the participants in the new study considered themselves spiritually active (participating regularly in religious services, prayer or meditation). More than half had postgraduate degrees. The sessions with the otherwise illegal hallucinogen were closely monitored and volunteers were considered to be psychologically healthy

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

As a word of caution, Griffiths also notes that some of the study participants reported strong fear or anxiety for a portion of their daylong psilocybin sessions, although none reported any lingering harmful effects. He cautions, however, that if hallucinogens are used in less well supervised settings, the possible fear or anxiety responses could lead to harmful behaviors.

Griffiths says lasting personality change is rarely looked at as a function of a single discrete experience in the laboratory. In the study, the change occurred specifically in those volunteers who had undergone a "mystical experience," as validated on a questionnaire developed by early hallucinogen researchers and refined by Griffiths for use at Hopkins. He defines "mystical experience" as among other things, "a sense of interconnectedness with all people and things accompanied by a sense of sacredness and reverence."

Personality was measured on a widely used and scientifically validated personality inventory, which covers openness and the other four broad domains that psychologists consider the makeup of : neuroticism, extroversion, agreeableness and conscientiousness. Only openness changed during the course of the study.

Griffiths says he believes psilocybin may have therapeutic uses. He is currently studying whether the hallucinogen has a use in helping cancer patients handle the depression and anxiety that comes along with a diagnosis, and whether it can help longtime cigarette smokers overcome their addiction.

"There may be applications for this we can't even imagine at this point," he says. "It certainly deserves to be systematically studied."

Provided by Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

4.8 /5 (31 votes)

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knowledge_treehouse
1 / 5 (5) Sep 29, 2011
I wonder if the spores can bloom in humans intestines?
Bonkers
5 / 5 (10) Sep 29, 2011
Great article, and very brave "career-limiting" research.
Why is it then that governments and lawmakers are so very much against this sort of thing? It would seem strongly to make for a more civilised, better informed, less judgemental type of electorate.
JRDarby
5 / 5 (6) Sep 29, 2011
I wonder if the spores can bloom in humans intestines?


If they can, it's doubtful it causes any problem. Humans have been ingesting psilocybin mushrooms for thousands of years. They're found on every continent but Antarctica and play an integral part in some cultures' religious ceremonies (e.g. Mexican Mazatec).
Buck54321
5 / 5 (7) Sep 29, 2011
Anthropologist Terence McKenna would be pleased. He advocated for the boundary-dissolving properties of psilocybin mushrooms and their therapeutic properties. It's unfortunate that we will probably never see the day when the full potential of chemicals like this are recognized. The government policies created during the exorbitant hippie movement in the 60s has ensured that all substances that drastically alter one's state of perception are quickly scheduled and further research discontinued.
Doug_Huffman
1.3 / 5 (12) Sep 29, 2011
It would seem strongly to make for a more civilised, better informed, less judgemental type of electorate.
An even less judgmental electorate? Consider the limiting circumstance of an entirely non-judgmental electorate, why bother with information or, indeed, civilization? "Groovy man! Soylent green is cool."
CarolinaScotsman
3.7 / 5 (6) Sep 29, 2011
Magic mushrooms--just what we need for a tea party.
FrankHerbert
3.3 / 5 (19) Sep 29, 2011
Anyone interested in such work should check out http://www.maps.org/ and consider donating. They are one of the few organizations (actually a nonprofit pharmaceutical company) that supports research and sane policies in psychedelic drugs.

Psychedelic drugs have the potential to help a great many people and their properties need to be studied in a controlled clinical fashion, something which the fearful fifth (tea partiers) has made all but impossible.

If you know anyone that suffers from cluster headaches, depression, or addiction, I doubt you would oppose such research. There are instances of these debilitating life-long conditions being cured with a single clinically supervised dose.

I'd say a strong enough dose of LSD or shrooms and a few hours of Carl Sagan's Cosmos could cure even the most stubborn case of conservatism.
antonima
1 / 5 (5) Sep 29, 2011
I ate some mushrooms two years ago, and I'm still John Kerry!

Jokes aside, I wonder how accurate the study can be. There is the selection bias - people who agree to do this are likely to be open individuals anyways. Also, in any period of time there is a 50% chance of openness increasing and 50% chance of openness decreasing. So, 60% isn't all that much considering the bias.
MedicalInformation
4.8 / 5 (4) Sep 29, 2011
This was incredibly interesting! Hallucinogens can increase the openness characteristic in human personality!? Wow...I would like to see future study's on this topic. That sounds scary but possible this could be used as a potential medical treatment.
paulo
4.6 / 5 (9) Sep 29, 2011
Psilocibe cubensis mushrooms show great promise for permanently curing depression with one dose. Just try getting something like that past Pfizer and company.
Newbeak
5 / 5 (7) Sep 29, 2011
I wonder if banning psychoactive drugs is a wise policy.Humans had been using these materials for thousands of years.Maybe there is a psychological advantage for groups that use them on a regular basis.
PinkElephant
5 / 5 (6) Sep 29, 2011
Despite all the burn-outs, overdose deaths, and otherwise wasted human potential, the 60's and 70's were probably the most creative decades of the 20th century in terms of art and culture. I always thought this was in no small part due to hallucinogenics. In a way, this research is just confirming what so many already knew or suspected.

I'm of the opinion that hallucinogenics (as opposed to opiates or other intoxicants) are actually useful and helpful on the whole even for healthy people -- never mind for therapeutic purposes -- at least when taken/administered in controlled doses, at controlled levels of purity, and in controlled environments. They can indeed open the mind, boost creativity and creative impulses, and help tear down mental walls and inhibitions that can prevent people from realizing and fulfilling their true talents and potential.

Steve Jobs says taking LSD earlier in his life was one of the most important things he ever did (look it up): a case in point.
Newbeak
5 / 5 (8) Sep 29, 2011
Despite all the burn-outs, overdose deaths, and otherwise wasted human potential, the 60's and 70's were probably the most creative decades of the 20th century in terms of art and culture. I always thought this was in no small part due to hallucinogenics. In a way, this research is just confirming what so many already knew or suspected.

I am a firm believer in what LEAP ( http://www.leap.cc/ ) has to say about drugs,including the hard stuff.Over a trillion dollars have been spent over the last 36 years on the "War on Drugs" with really nothing to show for it.Drugs are easier to get,more pure,and cheaper than ever.Legalize everything,cut the gangsters out of the picture,and treat the addicts medically,not with prison sentences.
that_guy
not rated yet Sep 29, 2011
I ate some mushrooms two years ago, and I'm still John Kerry!

Jokes aside, I wonder how accurate the study can be. There is the selection bias - people who agree to do this are likely to be open individuals anyways. Also, in any period of time there is a 50% chance of openness increasing and 50% chance of openness decreasing. So, 60% isn't all that much considering the bias.

I would like to point out that this research only confirms what many people who've accidentally taken too many shrooms once already know.
Doug_Huffman
1.4 / 5 (5) Sep 29, 2011
Humans had been using these materials for thousands of years.Maybe there is a psychological advantage for groups that use them on a regular basis.
This hypothetical psychological advantage is not correlated with cultural or technological advantage. Aboriginal psychoactive drug use is strongly correlated with productivity (negatively for the innumerate).
PinkElephant
5 / 5 (6) Sep 29, 2011
Aboriginal psychoactive drug use is strongly correlated with productivity (negatively for the innumerate).
Well, if we're going to broaden discussion to include all PSYCHOACTIVE drugs, then you'll have to justify your proposal for a blanket ban on smoking, alcohol, and caffeine on grounds of desiring cultural and technological advantage.
Newbeak
5 / 5 (3) Sep 29, 2011
Humans had been using these materials for thousands of years.Maybe there is a psychological advantage for groups that use them on a regular basis.
Aboriginal psychoactive drug use is strongly correlated with productivity (negatively for the innumerate).

If you say strongly correlated with productivity,you are saying it increases productivity.You should have said negatively correlated with productivity.
Newbeak
5 / 5 (5) Sep 29, 2011
"Well, if we're going to broaden discussion to include all PSYCHOACTIVE drugs, then you'll have to justify your proposal for a blanket ban on smoking, alcohol, and caffeine on grounds of desiring cultural and technological advantage".

And we all know that ain't going to happen anytime soon.The pushers of legal drugs have powerful lobbyists in D.C.
Isaacsname
5 / 5 (1) Sep 29, 2011
Try Gymnopilus junonius , they're great, and legal. There's hallucinogenic Cordyceps too :)
Newbeak
5 / 5 (6) Sep 29, 2011
Try Gymnopilus junonius , they're great, and legal. There's hallucinogenic Cordyceps too :)

The irony here is that relatively benign psychotropics like marijuana are illegal,forcing people to try things that little is known about and the law hasn't caught up with yet.
Cave_Man
4.3 / 5 (6) Sep 30, 2011
Hallucinogens are regulated perfectly fine in most nomadic and native primitive societies. The medicine man or shaman in the group behaves, in addition to other responsibilities, as a psychologist who will prescribe, among other things, hallucinogenic compounds to heal or enlighten a troubled or stagnated member of the group.

This mostly eliminated improper use of mind altering substances which could lead to undesirable experiences and dangerous situations.
old_frt
5 / 5 (1) Sep 30, 2011
Excellent.
Time to legalize the drug industry and then go after the criminals.
Drug use will normalized, as it should be, and crime and violence will become the focus of the Authorities.
Let the States determine the revenues and structure much the same way Alcohol and Tobacco are produced, sold, and taxed.
enantiomer2000
5 / 5 (1) Sep 30, 2011
Be careful with them mushrooms. I once knew a college friend of mine who took them and completely flipped his lid. Even weeks later he was still messed up in the head with mass delusions. I think he was probably borderline schizophrenic beforehand and most people probably won't experience this.
A_Paradox
5 / 5 (7) Sep 30, 2011
Be careful with them mushrooms. I once knew a college friend of mine who took them and completely flipped his lid.....I think he was probably borderline schizophrenic beforehand and most people probably won't experience this.


I'd say you are right about that; psilocybin is easily as powerful as LSD if you take enough of it. "Proper" use of any of the strong psychoactive chemicals requires a benign location, and the supportive company of at least one person who has a reasonable amount of knowledge, experience and insight. And preferably the user has some preparation beforehand also.

I have been saying for years that all the psychotropics should be available via medical prescription and under some kind of supervision. I mean it is really all about learning what it means to be human.

You have to ask yourself why SO MANY people are self medicating themselves with substances which alter their perceptions. Denial of this equals hypocrisy in my opinion.
Newbeak
5 / 5 (7) Sep 30, 2011
You have to ask yourself why SO MANY people are self medicating themselves with substances which alter their perceptions. Denial of this equals hypocrisy in my opinion.

I think I read this on the LEAP website-about 10% of the population at any one time are regular drug (besides the legal ones) users.I find it amazing that heroin,cocaine,and marijuana were over the counter items in every pharmacy circa 1900.How does the DEA explain why civilization didn't collapse with all those narcotics freely available?
that_guy
5 / 5 (4) Sep 30, 2011
I'm getting the impression that science minded folk - the same kinds of people who are innovators, inventors, and researchers - the same people who provide the greatest benefit to our society and mankind as a whole - That a fair majority of these people are in favor of overhauling our current drug laws. Given the caveat that my research is anecdotal to the comments on this one article.

Sorry, I had to go for that grand stand :)

That said, I bet we would have different opinions about psychotropics/hallucinagens than extremely addictive stimulants (Crack, Meth) or barbituates/depressants (like Heroin)
macsglen
1.6 / 5 (7) Sep 30, 2011
Quoted from the article:
"He defines "mystical experience" as among other things, "a sense of interconnectedness with all people and things accompanied by a sense of sacredness and reverence.""
This reinforces my opinion that all religion is no more than brain chemistry.
Historic or ubiquitous use aside, it seems that our brains were evolved _not_ requiring such things for optimal function. Therefor it seems reasonable to state that anything that permanently changes that function can be defined as _damage_.

"Here, kid, smoke this, it'll give you permanent brain damage! But hey, don't worry, it feels _really_ good!"

Sorry, I pass. We have no reason to assume that an upward trend in some part of our personalities should be considered an improvement.

The article frustrated me: they kept talking about change, but couldn't be bothered with clear definitions or explanations. For instance, it doesn't ever state specifically if a trait changed up or down, or by what amount, or how measured.
PinkElephant
5 / 5 (3) Sep 30, 2011
it seems that our brains were evolved _not_ requiring such things...it seems reasonable to state that anything that permanently changes that function can be defined as _damage_.
By that reasoning, formal education is damage -- because we did not evolve in an environment where higher education and the study of arts and sciences was the norm. The "natural" human condition is that of an aboriginal hunter-gatherer, and anything in addition to such normative behavior can be considered symptomatic of "damage".

Although, it should be noted that those still-surviving "primitive" tribes engage in lots of shamanistic and hallucinogenic rituals. So perhaps that is part of the natural human behavioral repertoire, after all.

Remember: any sort of experience that causes you to learn or to deposit memories, changes the brain. Change is not necessarily damage. Development through childhood into adulthood is nothing if not continuous change.
that_guy
5 / 5 (2) Sep 30, 2011
@mac - This article states exactly what they consider 'change' very specifically and scientifically - Using scientifically accepted measurements. Did you read 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.

I won't show you all the parts piece by piece (I'm sure you can read the article) but the quote above will get you started. if you want a more in depth definition/analysis, you can read the original paper or do some research on google.

This does not qualify as damage - it's a psychological change that doesn't necessarily negatively impact, not a chemical change.
ekim
5 / 5 (1) Sep 30, 2011
Mushrooms can cure depression, in some people. A single dose of mushrooms can lead to years without a relapse, in some people. It leads to less drinking, smoking and other self destructive habits, in some people. Also, no need for pharmaceuticals to be prescribed.
Imagine how many jobs would be lost if everybody were as well adjusted as some people.
bredmond
5 / 5 (1) Oct 01, 2011
I suffered severe depression and anxiety for years and was heavily medicated and went through years of psychotherapy with many different psychologists. It was a huge investment in time and money and it was emotionally very exhausting. The pain from the medication (drowsiness, nausea, erectile dysfunction) was just awful.

Imagine how many jobs would be lost if everybody were as well adjusted as some people.


My experience above can attest to that, but also, loss from poorly adjusted workers is also significant. I don't have the data, but I'm sure all can appreciate my argument. I have been a big supporter of marajuana legalization for years. Never gave too much thought to hallucinogens, especially mushrooms, though i have considered the issues with legalizing heroin, because of some new mexico governor's assertions (though I still oppose). I will give this more thought. The struggle during depression and lamentation afterward is too great to persist in ineffective methods
Isaacsname
5 / 5 (5) Oct 01, 2011
Mushrooms are a very powerful tool for resolution with internal dialogue. Although I haven't eaten them in 15 years, my experience with hallucinogens is that there are only so many times you can knock on the doors of perception before they no longer get answered. You have to take your experience and revelations and apply them in living, otherwise it's just another recreational drug.

A_Paradox
not rated yet Oct 01, 2011
bredmond,
I understand, at least to some extent, where you are coming from and my heart is stricken as I think what you must have gone through. I bumbled through life trying all sorts of different things for many many years, and I am lucky to have survived some of them: various non standard, chemically induced [and illegal], states of consciousness, some different varieties of social/ideological orientation and involvement, a religious conversion [and years later a 'falling away'], some dream therapy [remarkably useful with persistence and the right context of theory and support] and, last but not least, some psychiatric drug therapy.

A_Paradox
5 / 5 (1) Oct 01, 2011
[to bredmond, continued:]
Well, about two days after I started taking daily doses of escitalopram oxalate I stopped biting my finger nails [used to be called 'Lexapro' until a host of generics became legal]. That occurred a few years ago after 40 years of chewing them to the quick; I call that *effective*! Anxiety was the issue; fear flicking on but staying on without any reasonable cause, like the badly adjusted breaks of a car, "grabbing" when applied but then not releasing.

Isaacsname,
I think you are right about the mushies, same for LSD and most of the other things also. The thing is we are not "just chemicals", although they are definitely what we are made of. The mind is what the brain does, and so much of what it does, at any moment, is to embody a model of the universe in the form of vast numbers of repeatable, dynamic logical structures manifest in the form of resonating waves of impulse flows amongst characteristic groups of neurons.

ekim
5 / 5 (1) Oct 01, 2011
Good luck bredmond. I would suggest doing some research into the therapeutic effects of psychedelics prior to experimentation. Knowledge is power, and can aid your experiences by removing some of your doubts an fears while enhancing introspection. Also, on an interesting side note, I would suggest researching Ibogaine and it's use in curing opiate addiction.
Eric_B
5 / 5 (1) Oct 01, 2011
mescaline is a much more gentle hallucinagen than shrooms and LSD.

some advice re shrooms... i found that if you fast (water permitted) up to eight hours before taking them, the low blood sugar increases the effect, you need only a very small amount (like half a caps or one cap). you can go on fasting with water for as long as you can stand it and the trip will be shut down just by eating.

this is, of course, anecdotal info ;)

have fun.
bredmond
not rated yet Oct 02, 2011
Good luck bredmond. I would suggest doing some research into the therapeutic effects of psychedelics prior to experimentation. Knowledge is power, and can aid your experiences by removing some of your doubts an fears while enhancing introspection. Also, on an interesting side note, I would suggest researching Ibogaine and it's use in curing opiate addiction.


I appreciate the support from everybody. just for the record in case anybody doesnt understand, i never did heroin, and currently dont do anything that would be labeled as a drug (marajuana, cigarettes, coffee) except for a very rare drink once in a while. When i mentioned herion, i meant in the context of the social ramifications of legislation in favor of heroin. Also, I dont plan to experiment with drugs in the future. I am a mostly satisfied person, and I try to experiment with regular foods in order to maintain balance and develop my mind and body. I also combine this with regular exercise and studying.
ekim
5 / 5 (1) Oct 02, 2011
My apologies bredmond. I never meant to imply ,nor believed, you needed help with opiates. I only mentioned Ibogaine because it seemed relative to the discussion.
A_Paradox
5 / 5 (1) Oct 03, 2011
Isaacsname,
my little spiel there about the workings of brains, etc, didn't come out quite as I intended. I mean I believe what I wrote is true [very definitely so], but I wanted to say much more in agreement with what you wrote. EG, the psycotropic/psychedic drugs are methods for revealing to the user that the world we experience is totally a construct of our own brain/mind. This doesn't mean the external world is not 'real', far from it! But our experience is intrinscally paradoxical; we experience what our brains construct to model and describe the world. The paradox occurs [always] when we take the constucted experience _to_be_ the 'real' world. Our evolutionary histroy has set us up to do this very thing. I call it naive realism.

Meanwhile though, we need to get on with doing what we can to make the world a better place, knowing that whatever we take to be the reality of the moment, it is truly only ever our best guess at what is really happening. Some humility is called for.
Cave_Man
1 / 5 (1) Oct 03, 2011
bredmond brings up an interesting point just your diet can drastically effect you brain chemistry. Buddhist monks fast to attain a clearer path to enlightenment.

macsglen, you really need an eye opener. what makes you qualified to analyze something you've never experienced? that is a huge problem of science is they take anecdotal evidence and come to "empirical" conclusions, go read something by Albert Hoffman or R gordon wasson.

There are many examples of scientists and extremely intelligent people using hallucinogens to uncover the solution to a problem they cannot overcome. It usually yields very surprising results.

The fact it when under the effects of hallucinogens it is not a narrowing of the mind which takes place like inexperienced people think, but actually a broadening so profound that most people have difficulty maintaining a reference point to their initial reality. Try it and see, just be careful and have only good thoughts in your mind, and be open to new things.
bredmond
not rated yet Oct 06, 2011
bredmond brings up an interesting point just your diet can drastically effect you brain chemistry. Buddhist monks fast to attain a clearer path to enlightenment.


right, but i meant more of what you actually do eat keeping you in good spirits. as an example, some B vitamins, especially Thiamin and Niacin affect mood. Deficiencies can cause irratibility. Also distribution of energy throughout the day can have important effects. For example, avoiding energy spikes and energy troughs. It is better to get an even distribution of energy, and to leave the excitement to a killer game of 1 on 1 b-ball, and the downers to an episode of Soap Operas.