Tripping Acid As A Group Makes Us Feel More Positive And Connected, Research Suggests

Study respondents largely agreed that LSD and psilocybin contributed to a greater sense of connectedness and positivity. oneinchpunch/Shutterstock

Using psychedelic drugs in mass gatherings is linked to enhanced mood, a feeling of social connectedness, and transformative experiences, new research suggests.

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and psilocybin, the psychoactive chemical found in magic mushrooms, have long been associated with enhanced mood and social connectedness in controlled lab settings, but what about in the real world? To find out, a team of international researchers headed straight to the source.

In a large-scale field study, researchers interviewed more than 1,200 people who had taken psychedelics at multi-day gatherings between 2015 and 2017. Respondents in both the US and UK were mostly younger, educated adults who identified as moderately liberal and less religious. They were asked to respond to questions about their experience based on three key outcome variables, including whether they experienced an increase in positive mood, how connected they felt, and if they thought they had a transformative experience – a shift that's so profound it changed their values or morals. Those who used drugs in the previous 24 hours compared with those who had taken them within the last week reported feeling an increase in all three factors.
 
“We found that recent use of psychedelics was associated with increased positive mood through experience of personal transformation and feelings of connectedness to others,” write the authors in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, adding that their findings validate recent reports that suggest the effects may positively change the experiences of social relationships.
Psilocybin is the chemical compound in "magic mushrooms" responsible for psychoactive effects and hallucinations. CYAM/Shutterstock

The study does note several limitations. Responses are self-reported, and there is no way to ensure that participants actually took the substances they said they did or to detail the exact mechanism behind their reported experiences. For example, it could be that certain personality characteristics may make a person more or less likely to take psychedelics in the first place and respond to their effects in a certain way.

The methodology also generalizes psychedelic effects. Cultural events, like music festivals or those where people tend to take psychedelics, may provide a different setting to one that an “average person” may take psychedelics. Regardless, the researchers conclude that their work adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting the positive mental effects of psychedelics on the human brain.

“For millennia, naturally occurring psychedelic substances have been used by indigenous cultures in medicinal or spiritual contexts. Recent scientific investigations hint at the potential for these substances in the treatment of affective disorders, yet scientific inquiries into their psychological effects remain scarce,” write the authors.

The US government has committed to researching psychedelic psilocybin as a “breakthrough treatment” on the heels of other research suggesting the chemical could “reset” the brains of people with depression. On the other hand, LSD has been shown to change perceptions in the brain that may be beneficial for treating certain mental health disorders and help to foster a sense of “oneness” with the world. However, a major limitation with previous work is that it largely occurs in the laboratory rather than in a real-world setting.

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