There’s a fair share of pseudoscientific bullshit out there about magic mushrooms, LSD, ayahuasca, and the like. Fortunately, there’s recently been a bit of a renaissance in scientific research into psychedelics and their potential therapeutic effects. Using a bunch of this previous research, a new meta-study has sought to find out just how profound and long-lasting a psychedelic experience can be.
The findings suggest that a single psychedelic trip could change aspects of your personality for weeks, months, or years. In particular, the use of certain psychedelic drugs appeared to increase levels of a person’s “openness”, the personality trait associated with exploring new ideas, intellectual curiosity, and creativity. The mechanism of this is not yet known, but it’s believed to be associated with serotonin and its 5-HT receptors.
A team of Spanish and Brazil researchers carried out a meta-analysis of 18 scientific studies on drugs and changes in personality between 1985 to 2016. In regards to psychedelics, they looked into seven studies on ayahuasca, five on magic mushrooms, four on LSD, and two that assessed psychedelics in general. Some of these looked at long-term personality changes over a period of years. Their results were published in the journal Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews.
These big three psychedelics – LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline – are a group of psychedelic drugs that act on serotonin receptors, resulting in altered mood, sensory perception, or patterns of thought. They also appear to be capable of changing different personality traits.
“The reported results suggest that acute administration of serotonergic hallucinogens to healthy volunteers in experimental settings is associated with significant increases in Openness,” the study notes. “Results also suggest that these effects seem to be persistent, enduring from days to several weeks/months.”
"This type of research may offer new evidence to the classic discussion on whether personality is or isn’t a constant and stable psychological trait," the researchers add.
It’s certainly interesting stuff, but there are a few things the study authors say you should consider. First of all, people who are open to experimenting with psychedelics might have higher levels of openness to begin with and therefore aren't representative of the wider population. Secondly, all of these studies were fairly small, so they might not be representative of all people. It’s important to remember that psychedelics are powerful drugs that everyone reacts differently to – dropping some acid is certainly not a sure fire way to make you more open-minded.