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.
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.