Long-term Personality Changes with Hallucinogen

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In the drug world, hallucinogens like LSD or psilocybin are in a class by themselves. Users are looking for a different effect from these drugs and it is argued that they aren’t even addictive. There are also claims that hallucinogens can’t be harmful because, without addiction, there aren’t any long-term consequences of using them.

Science News Daily reported on research out of John Hopkins that studied effects from psilocybin as long as a year after exposure. Volunteers were dosed and assessed with a standard personality test at periodic intervals. Those that were most strongly affected by the psilocybin (the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms”) were also those that demonstrated the lasting changes.

The idea that a single, profound experience can be life changing isn’t new, but doing it with a chemical and hallucinations is. Participants felt the changes were positive, and those most affected were those that came to the trial with a desire for a spiritual experience. According to the article, “personality was measured on a widely used and scientifically validated personality inventory, which covers openness and the other four broad domains that psychologists consider the makeup of personality: neuroticism, extroversion, agreeableness and conscientiousness. Only openness changed during the course of the study.”

The group at Johns Hopkins intends to study the possibility of using psilocybin as an adjunct in addiction to tobacco. They also want to find out if hallucinogens can help cancer patients overcome the depression and anxiety that often comes with the disease. The fact that changes long outlast the administration of the drug indicates that learning has occurred, rather than just a temporary difference in brain state.

If the research is upheld by other investigators, these substances may once again become popular targets for research.

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