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Spiritual effects of hallucinogens persist, Johns Hopkins researchers report
Date:6/30/2008

of a group of 36 healthy, well-educated volunteers with active spiritual lives reported having a "full mystical experience" after taking psilocybin. {See http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/Press_releases/2006/07_11_06.html}

Psilocybin, a plant alkaloid, exerts its influence on some of the same brain receptors that respond to the neurotransmitter serotonin. Mushrooms containing psilocybin have been used in some cultures for hundreds of years or more for religious, divinatory and healing purposes.

Fourteen months later, Griffiths re-administered the questionnaires used in the first study -- along with a specially designed set of follow up questions -- to all 36 subjects. Results showed that about the same proportion of the volunteers ranked their experience in the study as the single most, or one of the five most, personally meaningful or spiritually significant events of their lives and regarded it as having increased their sense of well-being or life satisfaction.

"This is a truly remarkable finding," Griffiths says. "Rarely in psychological research do we see such persistently positive reports from a single event in the laboratory. This gives credence to the claims that the mystical-type experiences some people have during hallucinogen sessions may help patients suffering from cancer-related anxiety or depression and may serve as a potential treatment for drug dependence. We're eager to move ahead with that research."

Griffiths also notes that, "while some of our subjects reported strong fear or anxiety for a portion of their day-long psilocybin sessions, none reported any lingering harmful effects, and we didn't observe any clinical evidence of harm."

The research team cautions that if hallucinogens are used in less well supervised settings, the possible fear or anxiety responses could lead to harmful behaviors.


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Contact: John Lazarou
jlazaro1@jhmi.edu
410-502-8902
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Source:Eurekalert

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