Author Topic: Magic mushrooms  (Read 2695 times)


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Magic mushrooms
« on: February 05, 2007, 04:35:25 PM »
Last summer, there appeared in the profoundly respectable journal Psychopharmacology a most unusual paper, written by a team at Johns Hopkins Medical School led by the profoundly respectable Roland Griffiths, Professor of Neuroscience and Psychiatry, who spends most of his time studying the effects of caffeine. (They're bigger than you thought they were. The technical term for that headache you have until you have your morning cup of coffee is "withdrawal syndrome.")

The paper is called "Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance." (Psilocybin is one of the long-known hallucinogens, being the active agent in "magic" or “sacred” mushrooms.)

Download it here:

The research team found thirty-six healthy volunteers, all with some sort of regular religious or spiritual activity (e.g., weekly churchgoing), none with any serious psychiatric histories, and none with any previous experience with any of the hallucinogens (aka psychedelics, aka entheogens: the group that includes LSD, the mescaline in peyote, and the DMT in ayahuasca).

Following a series of four two-hour preparation sessions with a psychologist experienced at guiding hallucinogen sessions (from his days at the Spring Grove Hospital when it was a center of that research effort) the subjects were then brought into a living-room-like setting and given either a fairly hefty dose of psilocybin (almost half a milligram per kilogram of body weight) or a comparably hefty dose of methylphenidate, the stimulant prescribed as Ritalin to treat attention deficit disorder.

After swallowing the capsule, the subjects were encouraged to put on eyeshades and earphones (with a set music program) and "go inside." The dosing was triple-blind: neither the principal investigator, the subject, nor the two "guides" present for the session (including Bill Richards, the psychologist who handled the preparation sessions) knew which material was present in the capsule the subject took.

The process was repeated two months later, again triple-blind. Most subjects got psilocybin one of the two times, none both times; the few who got the Ritalin twice running then had an "open-label" (unblinded) session with psilocybin. This elaborate scheme was designed to separate out the effects of the chemical from the effects of expectancy.

Subjects took a whole battery of psychological tests before and after the session, and were debriefed immediately afterwards, two months later, and a year later. (The year-later results have yet to be published, but reportedly there don't seem to have been any surprising changes compared to the two-month follow-up.) In addition, each person designated, in advance, three family members, friends, neighbors, or co-workers to serve as "community raters”; they, too, were interviewed.

The findings were nothing short of astonishing. The subjects' accounts of their experiences were scored, according to pre-set criteria based on previous work in the psychology of religion, for how closely they corresponded with the accounts of mystical experience from, for example, Hildegard von Bingen or Meister Eckhardt or Julian of Norwich, and their equivalents in other spiritual traditions.

Twenty-two of the thirty-six psilocybin sessions, but only four of the 36 Ritalin sessions, led to a "full" mystical experience. On a scale of personal meaningfulness or significance that went from "routine, the sort of thing that might happen any day," through "the most meaningful thing that would happen in the course of a typical week," then "month," then "year," then "five-year period," to "one of the ten most meaningful experiences of your lifetime," "among the five most meaningful" and finally "the single most meaningful experience of your lifetime," fully two-thirds of the respondents rated their psilocybin experience in the "five most meaningful" or "single most meaningful" categories, and none ranked it below "once a year." The Ritalin scores clustered near "once a month."

As might be expected among hallucinogen-naïve subjects getting a substantial dose, there were some scary experiences; thirty percent of the volunteers reported "significant fear" (lasting for short intervals for some and longer portions of the session for others), but no one needed more than comforting to deal with that fear and no one had any damaging after-effects. Two months later, the participants tended to report themselves as feeling better and behaving better than they had previously, and the community raters tended to agree.
The greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world that he did not exist.” - Charles Baudelaire (French and monstrous poet).


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Re: Magic mushrooms
« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2007, 10:48:26 PM »
huh. that's really interesting. thanks for posting.