Mystical Experiences Occasioned by the Hallucinogen Psilocybin Lead to Increases in the Personality Domain of Openness

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA.
Journal of Psychopharmacology (Impact Factor: 3.59). 09/2011; 25(11):1453-61. DOI: 10.1177/0269881111420188
Source: PubMed


A large body of evidence, including longitudinal analyses of personality change, suggests that core personality traits are predominantly stable after age 30. To our knowledge, no study has demonstrated changes in personality in healthy adults after an experimentally manipulated discrete event. Intriguingly, double-blind controlled studies have shown that the classic hallucinogen psilocybin occasions personally and spiritually significant mystical experiences that predict long-term changes in behaviors, attitudes and values. In the present report we assessed the effect of psilocybin on changes in the five broad domains of personality - Neuroticism, Extroversion, Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness. Consistent with participant claims of hallucinogen-occasioned increases in aesthetic appreciation, imagination, and creativity, we found significant increases in Openness following a high-dose psilocybin session. In participants who had mystical experiences during their psilocybin session, Openness remained significantly higher than baseline more than 1 year after the session. The findings suggest a specific role for psilocybin and mystical-type experiences in adult personality change.

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Available from: Matthew W Johnson, Mar 01, 2014
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    • "Although the biological mechanisms underlying mystical experiences have not been identified, mystical experiences have a clear operational definition (Griffiths et al., 2006, 2011; MacLean et al., 2012; Pahnke, 1963; Richards, 1975), and the value of mystical experiences in terms of predicting positive outcomes has been empirically demonstrated (Griffiths et al., 2006, 2008, 2011; Johnson et al., 2014; MacLean et al., 2011). "
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    ABSTRACT: The 30-item revised Mystical Experience Questionnaire (MEQ30) was previously developed within an online survey of mystical-type experiences occasioned by psilocybin-containing mushrooms. The rated experiences occurred on average eight years before completion of the questionnaire. The current paper validates the MEQ30 using data from experimental studies with controlled doses of psilocybin. Data were pooled and analyzed from five laboratory experiments in which participants (n=184) received a moderate to high oral dose of psilocybin (at least 20 mg/70 kg). Results of confirmatory factor analysis demonstrate the reliability and internal validity of the MEQ30. Structural equation models demonstrate the external and convergent validity of the MEQ30 by showing that latent variable scores on the MEQ30 positively predict persisting change in attitudes, behavior, and well-being attributed to experiences with psilocybin while controlling for the contribution of the participant-rated intensity of drug effects. These findings support the use of the MEQ30 as an efficient measure of individual mystical experiences. A method to score a "complete mystical experience" that was used in previous versions of the mystical experience questionnaire is validated in the MEQ30, and a stand-alone version of the MEQ30 is provided for use in future research.
    Journal of Psychopharmacology 10/2015; 156. DOI:10.1177/0269881115609019 · 3.59 Impact Factor
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    • "Thus, the enhancement of these emotions suggests that the music×LSD combination may contribute to the occurrence of spiritual-type or peak experiences. If spiritual-type experiences are predictive of therapeutic/beneficial effects of psychedelics (Griffiths et al. 2008; MacLean et al. 2011; Garcia-Romeu et al. 2014), and if the likelihood of their occurrence can be increased by music, then this would substantiate the view that music is an important element in psychedelic-assisted therapy. "
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    ABSTRACT: There is renewed interest in the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). LSD was used extensively in the 1950s and 1960s as an adjunct in psychotherapy, reportedly enhancing emotionality. Music is an effective tool to evoke and study emotion and is considered an important element in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy; however, the hypothesis that psychedelics enhance the emotional response to music has yet to be investigated in a modern placebo-controlled study. The present study sought to test the hypothesis that music-evoked emotions are enhanced under LSD. Ten healthy volunteers listened to five different tracks of instrumental music during each of two study days, a placebo day followed by an LSD day, separated by 5-7 days. Subjective ratings were completed after each music track and included a visual analogue scale (VAS) and the nine-item Geneva Emotional Music Scale (GEMS-9). Results demonstrated that the emotional response to music is enhanced by LSD, especially the emotions "wonder", "transcendence", "power" and "tenderness". These findings reinforce the long-held assumption that psychedelics enhance music-evoked emotion, and provide tentative and indirect support for the notion that this effect can be harnessed in the context of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. Further research is required to test this link directly.
    Psychopharmacology 08/2015; 232(19). DOI:10.1007/s00213-015-4014-y · 3.88 Impact Factor
    • "In a 14-month follow-up these were considered by more than 50% of subjects to be one of the most personally meaningful and spiritually significant experiences of their lives, and had increased well-being or life satisfaction in 64% of the subjects (Griffiths et al., 2008). Furthermore, enduring increases in the personality domain of openness were observed among those subjects who had a complete mystical experience (MacLean et al., 2011). Together these results suggest that beneficial effects of the experience had outlasted the afterglow phenomena. "
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    ABSTRACT: Interest in the therapeutic potential of psychedelic substances has recently resumed. During an early phase of human psychedelic research, their therapeutic application in different pathologies had been suggested, and the first evidence for efficacy was provided. The range of recent clinical applications of psychedelics spans from cluster headaches and obsessive-compulsive disorder to addiction and the treatment of fear and anxiety in patients suffering from terminal illness, indicating potentially different therapeutic mechanisms. A variety of approaches in psychotherapy emphasize subjective experiences, such as so-called peak experiences or afterglow phenomena, as differentially mediating therapeutic action. This review aims to re-evaluate earlier and recent concepts of how psychedelic substances may exert beneficial effects. After a short outline of neurophenomenological aspects, we discuss different approaches to how psychedelics are used in psychotherapy. Finally, we summarize evidence for the relationship between subjective experiences and therapeutic success. While the distinction between pharmacological and psychological action obviously cannot be clear-cut, they do appear to contribute differently from each other when their effects are compared with regard to pathologies.
    Journal of Psychopharmacology 02/2015; DOI:10.1177/0269881114568040 · 3.59 Impact Factor
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