What is the cure for humanity’s ails? According to new research from the Psychedelic Research Group at Imperial College London, psilocybin — the active components in “magic mushrooms” — may be the answer.
The new study, published in the journal Psychopharmacology, suggests psilocybin can help people feel more connected to nature and less likely to endorse authoritarian views. The study is the first to provide experimental evidence that treatment with the fungi could result in lasting changes in these attitudes.
Wrote study authors Taylor Lyons and Robin L. Carhart-Harris: “Our findings tentatively raise the possibility that given in this way, psilocybin may produce sustained changes in outlook and political perspective, here in the direction of increased nature relatedness and decreased authoritarianism.” As PsyPost reports, the scientists hoped to discover whether or not psilocybin promotes anti-authoritarianism and nature relatedness, or if the use of magic mushrooms is a consequence of it.
A total of 14 people participated in the trial. 7 participants with treatment-resistant major depression receiving two oral doses of psilocybin; 7 healthy control subjects did not. Before the experiment, at one week, and at 7-12-month follow-ups, the participants were surveyed about their political views and their relationship to nature.
It turns out, participants who received psilocybin treatment showed a significant increase in nature relatedness one week after ingesting the substance; this change was sustained at the 7-12-month follow-up. Said one participant, “Before I enjoyed nature, now I feel part of it. Before I was looking at it as a thing, like TV or a painting… [But now I see] there’s no separation or distinction, you are it.”
The authors noted that participants who received psilocybin treatment also showed a significant decrease in authoritarian attitudes; this, too, was sustained at the 7-12-month follow-up. A reduction of depressive symptoms was also recorded in these patients. There was no significant pattern of changes among the participants who did not receive psilocybin.
Because of the study’s small sample size, more research needs to be conducted before actual conclusions can be drawn. “It would be hasty, therefore, to attempt any strong claims about a causal influence due specifically to psilocybin at this stage,” the authors cautioned in their study.
In a previous study that surveyed 1,487 people, it was discovered that those who used classic psychedelics (like LSD and magic mushrooms) were more likely to report that they enjoyed spending time in nature. They also saw themselves as part of nature. And, another study that surveyed 900 people found that psychedelic drug use is associated with liberal and libertarian political views, a greater relatedness to nature, and higher levels of openness to new experiences.
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