Getting high was once seen as an act of deviance or cultural defiance, yet now, thanks to a shift in attitudes towards drugs, it’s science. This means that researchers have finally been given the green light to investigate the effects of mind-altering substances, leading to new data regarding the consequences of mixing cannabis with psychedelic drugs like LSD, magic mushrooms, or ayahuasca.
Presenting their work in the journal Psychopharmacology, the study authors reveal that pot enhances the mystical experiences occasioned by serotonergic psychedelics, a class of drug that interferes with consciousness by acting upon serotonin receptors in the brain. “We found evidence of more intense mystical-type, ego dissolution and visual experiences in conjunction with cannabis use,” they write, adding that this effect is directly proportional to the amount of weed that is consumed.
To conduct their research, the authors surveyed 321 people about their use of psychedelics. Of these, 39 percent claimed to have ingested cannabis at the same time as a serotonergic psychedelic, with the overwhelming majority using either LSD or psilocybin.
After analyzing participants’ responses to the Mystical Experience Questionnaire, the researchers noted a dose-dependent relationship between cannabis use and average scores for such experiences.
Results also indicated that smoking weed influences the likelihood of experiencing a bad trip, which the authors describe as a “challenging experience”. Interestingly, though, the data revealed that low doses of cannabis tend to reduce the chances of suffering such an uncomfortable psychedelic escapade, while high doses increase this likelihood.
This was especially true for particular elements of these challenging trips. For example, people who mixed their psychedelics with low doses of cannabis tended to obtain lower scores on both the “fear” and “insanity” subscales than those who used no pot at all. However, the use of high doses of cannabis appeared to enhance both of these unpleasant aspects.
According to the authors, this may be evidence for the contradictory effects of cannabis, with low doses helping to relieve psychological anguish while higher doses enhance this mental turmoil. Additionally, it must be noted that different strains of cannabis contain different amounts of key cannabinoids such as CBD and THC. Given that the researchers did not analyze the chemical composition of the cannabis used by each participant, it’s hard to draw any firm conclusions from this data.
Regardless, they go on to explain that the apparent ability of cannabis to enhance psychedelic experiences “may be because cannabis itself induces subjective effects that are similar to some effects of psychedelics, such as euphoria, changes in perception of time, intensification of sensory perception and hyper-associative thinking.” Furthermore, despite the fact that THC primarily acts upon cannabinoid receptors, the authors point to other studies which have indicated that the compound may interact with serotonin receptors, thereby interfering with the activity of psychedelics.
Summing up, the researchers explain that their findings may have important implications for the therapeutic use of psychedelics, as “some of the therapeutically desirable psychological effects associated with psychedelics may, in theory, be enhanced by concomitant cannabis use.”