“Taking magic mushrooms (psilocybin) can have a lasting change on the individual’s personality, making them more open about their feelings and the way they perceive things”, researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA, wrote in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
The authors further explained that those who went through mystic experiences while on psilocybin were more likely to subsequently exhibit certain changes in their personality, making them express their feelings more openly, become more focused on being creative, curious, and appreciative toward artistic things.
Psilocybin is a psychedelic drug whose main action is altering perception and cognition. Its molecular formula is C12H17N2O4P. Its mind-altering effects are similar to those of mescaline and LSD. It effects may include spiritual experiences, an altered sense of time, altered thinking processes, and perceptual distortions. Aside from these, Psilocybin can also cause nausea and panic attacks. This psychedelic drug can be found in over 200 types of mushrooms, the most powerful source being the genus Psilocybe, including P. cubensis, P. semilanceata, and P. cyanescens.
This latest study, led by Roland Griffiths, showed that personality changes that occurred in those who took magic mushrooms could still be noticed up to twelve months later. The authors believe that the psilocybin may have a long-term effect.
Professor Griffiths said: “The remarkable piece is that psilocybin can facilitate experiences that change how people perceive themselves and their environment. That’s unprecedented.”
Magic mushrooms are usually eaten. However, they can also be smoked or turned to a tea beverage.
Timothy Leary, a former Harvard professor of psychology used to consume magic mushrooms. Leary is the founder of the Harvard Psilocybin Project.
Openness is one of five main personality traits that span all cultures worldwide, followed by the other four: extroversion, neuroticism, agreeableness and conscientiousness. Degrees of openness are fairly constant throughout one’s lifetime. The researchers found the other four personality factors to remain largely unchanged after people consumed magic mushrooms.
The authors say their study is the first finding of a short-term intervention with long-lasting personality changes.
For the purpose of the study, 51 individuals were involved. They underwent two to five eight-hour psilocybin sessions, with a three-week interval between each session. The session involved them lying on a couch, wearing an eye mask and listening to music through headphones while concentrating on an inner experience. Their personalities were screened at the beginning of the studies, and then at a two-month and 12-month follow-up.
Thirty of the volunteers had a mystical experience, according to the researchers’ findings gathered from a set of psychological scales. Their openness scores increased, indicating more focus on aesthetics, imagination, inner feelings, ideas and values. The rest of the participants, who did not have any mystical experiences, underwent no apparent personality change.
“The findings suggest a specific role for psilocybin and mystical-type experiences in adult personality change”, the authors concluded.
Evidence of psychoactive mushrooms being used by humans for thousands of years
Archeologists have gathered evidence of the presence of psychoactive mushrooms in religious rituals, and the mushrooms were used for thousands of years.
Dating from about 4,000 BC, paintings found in Villar del Humo, Spain, show evidence of Psilocybe hispanica usage in religious ceremonies.
Murals dating 7000 to 9000 BC found in southeast Algeria, in the Sahara desert, also suggest psilocybin mushroom use.
Psychoactive mushrooms were called “teonanacatl” (God flesh) in the Aztec language Nahuatl, which is another sign of their use in the past. Mayan archives include data pointing out to common usage of psilocybin mushrooms in ceremonies and rituals.