Listen to this article Belief Changes About Supernatural And Non-Physical World Possible After A Single Dose Of Psychedelics
A recent study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology sheds light on the long-lasting belief changes that can result from even a single dose of psychedelics. The study found that participants who had previously used LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, or ayahuasca reported significant increases in beliefs related to mind-body dualism, paranormal or spiritual phenomena, and consciousness. These findings provide further evidence of the potential consequences of psychedelic use and its possible role as a therapeutic intervention.
Belief Changes Induced by Psychedelics
Studies have shown that taking psychedelics can lead to experiences of spirituality and changes in supernatural beliefs. While psilocybin has been found to cause immediate mystical experiences and long-lasting improvements in an individual’s spirituality, a limited number of studies have tackled the specific types of beliefs influenced by the use of psychedelics. To address this, the research team recruited 1,874 participants who reported experiences with one of the commonly used psychedelics.
Participants responded to a survey covering various aspects such as demographic details, use of psychedelic substances, personality traits, and scientific knowledge and attitudes. Most of the questions in the survey aimed to understand the impact of a single psychedelic experience on an individual’s beliefs. The findings indicated that a single psychedelic experience could result in significant changes in a person’s beliefs. Factor analysis of participants’ responses determined that the belief changes fell into five categories:
- Dualism — a philosophical position that the mind and body are separable
- Paranormal/Spirituality — beliefs including the existence of telepathy, disembodied spirits and existence of self after death, communication with the dead,
- reincarnation, and whether some people can predict the future or move objects with their mind
- Nonmammal Consciousness — whether insects, trees, and rocks are capable of having a conscious experience
- Mammal Consciousness — nonmammal and mammal consciousness and whether these are “capable of having conscious experience”
- Superstition — beliefs that breaking mirrors, the number 13 and black cats bring bad luck, etc
Participants experienced an increase in all categories of beliefs, except superstitious beliefs, following an experience with psychedelics. The changes remained consistent over time, even when assessed an average of 8.4 years after the experience. The study revealed that most participants reported that their fundamental understanding of reality had been altered, and there was an increase in the number of participants who identified as “believers.”
Factors Influencing Belief Changes
The research team proposes three additional elements that may influence the direction of changes in beliefs:
- The cultural environment and expectations
- The revelation of underlying cognitive prejudices
- Experiential education through powerful personal experiences that promote non-physicalism
The significance of context and expectation in directing such changes in beliefs is crucial, particularly in managing unfavorable shifts in beliefs. The study highlights that pre-existing beliefs could influence belief changes induced by psychedelic substances, and further exploration is necessary in this field.
Implications for Therapeutic Use
“The magnitude of belief changes is strongly associated with mystical experience ratings, which are assessed without reference to supernatural beliefs,” noted Roland Griffiths, the founding director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research. “Major features of such experiences include a sense of connectedness, preciousness, and validity. These features may account for changes in beliefs such as increases in a sense of purpose and meaning of life, and that the universe is conscious.”