One of the most common anecdotes from taking psychedelic drugs, whether LSD, mescaline, or magic mushrooms, is gaining a new appreciation of the natural world. But is there any real truth to the claim that dropping psychedelics can change your views on the environment, even after the high has gone?
In a recent study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, people with experience of taking psychedelic drugs reported more pro-environmental behaviors, such as recycling and keeping an eye on their carbon footprint. Many also reported a deeper sense of being close to nature.
“The more people had experience with classic psychedelics, the more they enjoyed spending time in nature, and the more they construed their self as being a part of nature,” the study authors wrote.
Psychologists from Yale University and the University of Innsbruck in Austria asked 1,487 people about their experience with psychedelics and other hallucinogens. They investigated these people’s experiences with both non-psychedelic and psychedelic drugs, taking into account any self-reported environmentalist behaviors or affiliations for all things "green". As a control, they also looked at some common personality traits often associated with drug consumption or relating to nature, including openness to experience, conscientiousness, and conservatism.
Interestingly, the researchers found a link between the number of experiences people had with psychedelics and their likelihood of taking part in activities like recycling, trying to cut down their carbon footprints, and supporting local eco-friendly shopping. People who had taken psychedelics were also more likely to support pro-environment statements and disagree with phrases like “Humans have the right to use natural resources any way we want.”
However, the relationship between taking psychedelics and being green is only a correlation and the eco-friendly behaviors in the study were all self-reported. This begs the question: Are people who have environmental concerns just more likely to be open to trying drugs?
The researchers say this isn’t the case because people who are into environmental issues are not more likely to indulge in other drugs, whether it's tobacco, marijuana, alcohol, or recreational illegal substances. There was also no hint that certain personality types are drawn towards both psychedelics and nature.
The study did not look for a causation, yet it hinted “there is strong reason to believe that psychedelic substances increase nature relatedness as a function of their ego-dissolving effects.”
The researchers suggest that future studies are needed to confirm whether taking psychedelics can directly affect nature relatedness and pro-environmental behavior. They argue that this particular field could be used to heighten mental well-being and perhaps even save the planet.
“Identifying factors that contribute to this process is therefore an important scientific endeavor – for individual wellbeing as well as for our planet’s future,” the study concluded.