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.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2015 · Journal of Psychopharmacology
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    • "One the one hand, it's certainly conceivable that future cognitive enhancing drugs will have longer lasting or potentially permanent effects. For instance, a single high dose of the hallucinogen psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) can create lasting personality changes[19]. Beyond drugs, the effects of genetic modifications would be anything but transitory. "
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    ABSTRACT: How should we understand the concept of enhancement? One approach is to define it as referring to a change in a person's biology or psychology which increase their chances of leading a good life in the relevant set of circumstances. This welfarist account of enhancement posits itself as a normative approach that is more coherent than alternative definitions. However, a number of criticisms have been levelled against it, including that it obscures the distinction between science-based interventions (e.g. drugs) and so-called conventional ones (e.g. education), as well as the distinction between therapy and enhancement. It has also been objected to on the basis that it relies heavily on the contested concept of well-being, and that it underestimates the role social forces play in how we define well-being. I argue here that these criticisms are either unfounded or addressable. The welfarist account is a promising approach to conceptualizing enhancement, so long as we understand it only as definition of what enhancement is, as opposed to an argument for the permissibility of enhancement.
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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.
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