Psilocybin-occasioned mystical-type experience in combination with meditation and other spiritual practices produces enduring positive changes in psychological functioning and in trait measures of prosocial attitudes and behaviors.
ABSTRACT: Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences with participant-attributed increases in well-being. However, little research has examined enduring changes in traits. This study administered psilocybin to participants who undertook a program of meditation/spiritual practices. Healthy participants were randomized to three groups (25 each): (1) very low-dose (1 mg/70 kg on sessions 1 and 2) with moderate-level ("standard") support for spiritual-practice (LD-SS); (2) high-dose (20 and 30 mg/70 kg on sessions 1 and 2, respectively) with standard support (HD-SS); and (3) high-dose (20 and 30 mg/70kg on sessions 1 and 2, respectively) with high support for spiritual practice (HD-HS). Psilocybin was administered double-blind and instructions to participants/staff minimized expectancy confounds. Psilocybin was administered 1 and 2 months after spiritual-practice initiation. Outcomes at 6 months included rates of spiritual practice and persisting effects of psilocybin. Compared with low-dose, high-dose psilocybin produced greater acute and persisting effects. At 6 months, compared with LD-SS, both high-dose groups showed large significant positive changes on longitudinal measures of interpersonal closeness, gratitude, life meaning/purpose, forgiveness, death transcendence, daily spiritual experiences, religious faith and coping, and community observer ratings. Determinants of enduring effects were psilocybin-occasioned mystical-type experience and rates of meditation/spiritual practices. Psilocybin can occasion enduring trait-level increases in prosocial attitudes/behaviors and in healthy psychological functioning. Trial Registration ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier NCT00802282.
Project description:Clinically significant anxiety and depression are common in patients with cancer, and are associated with poor psychiatric and medical outcomes. Historical and recent research suggests a role for psilocybin to treat cancer-related anxiety and depression.In this double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial, 29 patients with cancer-related anxiety and depression were randomly assigned and received treatment with single-dose psilocybin (0.3 mg/kg) or niacin, both in conjunction with psychotherapy. The primary outcomes were anxiety and depression assessed between groups prior to the crossover at 7 weeks.Prior to the crossover, psilocybin produced immediate, substantial, and sustained improvements in anxiety and depression and led to decreases in cancer-related demoralization and hopelessness, improved spiritual wellbeing, and increased quality of life. At the 6.5-month follow-up, psilocybin was associated with enduring anxiolytic and anti-depressant effects (approximately 60-80% of participants continued with clinically significant reductions in depression or anxiety), sustained benefits in existential distress and quality of life, as well as improved attitudes towards death. The psilocybin-induced mystical experience mediated the therapeutic effect of psilocybin on anxiety and depression.In conjunction with psychotherapy, single moderate-dose psilocybin produced rapid, robust and enduring anxiolytic and anti-depressant effects in patients with cancer-related psychological distress.ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT00957359.
Project description:A growing body of evidence shows that existential and spiritual well-being in cancer patients is associated with better medical outcomes, improved quality of life, and serves as a buffer against depression, hopelessness, and desire for hastened death. Historical and recent research suggests a role for psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy in treating cancer-related anxiety and depression. A double-blind controlled trial was performed, where 29 patients with cancer-related anxiety and depression were randomly assigned to treatment with single-dose psilocybin (0.3 mg/kg) or niacin in conjunction with psychotherapy. Previously published results of this trial demonstrated that, in conjunction with psychotherapy, moderate-dose psilocybin produced rapid, robust, and enduring anxiolytic, and anti-depressant effects. Here, we illustrate unique clinical courses described by four participants using quantitative measures of acute and persisting effects of psilocybin, anxiety, depression, quality of life, and spiritual well-being, as well as qualitative interviews, written narratives, and clinician notes. Although the content of each psilocybin-assisted experience was unique to each participant, several thematic similarities and differences across the various sessions stood out. These four participants' personal narratives extended beyond the cancer diagnosis itself, frequently revolving around themes of self-compassion and love, acceptance of death, and memories of past trauma, though the specific details or narrative content differ substantially. The results presented here demonstrate the personalized nature of the subjective experiences elicited through treatment with psilocybin, particularly with respect to the spiritual and/or psychological needs of each patient.
Project description:Psilocybin is a classic (serotonergic) hallucinogen ("psychedelic" drug) that may occasion mystical experiences (characterized by a profound feeling of oneness or unity) during acute effects. Such experiences may have therapeutic value. Research and clinical applications of psychedelics usually include music listening during acute drug effects, based on the expectation that music will provide psychological support during the acute effects of psychedelic drugs, and may even facilitate the occurrence of mystical experiences. However, the features of music chosen to support the different phases of drug effects are not well-specified. As a result, there is currently neither real guidance for the selection of music nor standardization of the music used to support clinical trials with psychedelic drugs across various research groups or therapists. A description of the features of music found to be supportive of mystical experience will allow for the standardization and optimization of the delivery of psychedelic drugs in both research trials and therapeutic contexts. To this end, we conducted an anonymous survey of individuals with extensive experience administering psilocybin or psilocybin-containing mushrooms under research or therapeutic conditions, in order to identify the features of commonly used musical selections that have been found by therapists and research staff to be supportive of mystical experiences within a psilocybin session. Ten respondents yielded 24 unique recommendations of musical stimuli supportive of peak effects with psilocybin, and 24 unique recommendations of musical stimuli supportive of the period leading up to a peak experience. Qualitative analysis (expert rating of musical and music-theoretic features of the recommended stimuli) and quantitative analysis (using signal processing and music-information retrieval methods) of 22 of these stimuli yielded a description of peak period music that was characterized by regular, predictable, formulaic phrase structure and orchestration, a feeling of continuous movement and forward motion that slowly builds over time, and lower perceptual brightness when compared to pre peak music. These results provide a description of music that may be optimally supportive of peak psychedelic experiences. This description can be used to guide the selection and composition of music for future psychedelic research and therapy sessions.
Project description:A large body of historical evidence describes the use of hallucinogenic compounds, such as psilocybin mushrooms, for religious purposes. But few scientific studies have attempted to measure or characterize hallucinogen-occasioned spiritual experiences. The present study examined the factor structure of the Mystical Experience Questionnaire (MEQ), a self-report measure that has been used to assess the effects of hallucinogens in laboratory studies. Participants (N=1602) completed the 43-item MEQ in reference to a mystical or profound experience they had had after ingesting psilocybin. Exploratory factor analysis of the MEQ retained 30 items and revealed a 4-factor structure covering the dimensions of classic mystical experience: unity, noetic quality, sacredness (F1); positive mood (F2); transcendence of time/space (F3); and ineffability (F4). MEQ factor scores showed good internal reliability and correlated with the Hood Mysticism Scale, indicating convergent validity. Participants who endorsed having had a mystical experience on psilocybin, compared to those who did not, had significantly higher factor scores, indicating construct validity. The 4-factor structure was confirmed in a second sample (N=440) and demonstrated superior fit compared to alternative models. The results provide initial evidence of the validity, reliability, and factor structure of a 30-item scale for measuring single, hallucinogen-occasioned mystical experiences, which may be a useful tool in the scientific study of mysticism.
Project description:Cancer patients often develop chronic, clinically significant symptoms of depression and anxiety. Previous studies suggest that psilocybin may decrease depression and anxiety in cancer patients. The effects of psilocybin were studied in 51 cancer patients with life-threatening diagnoses and symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. This randomized, double-blind, cross-over trial investigated the effects of a very low (placebo-like) dose (1 or 3 mg/70 kg) vs. a high dose (22 or 30 mg/70 kg) of psilocybin administered in counterbalanced sequence with 5 weeks between sessions and a 6-month follow-up. Instructions to participants and staff minimized expectancy effects. Participants, staff, and community observers rated participant moods, attitudes, and behaviors throughout the study. High-dose psilocybin produced large decreases in clinician- and self-rated measures of depressed mood and anxiety, along with increases in quality of life, life meaning, and optimism, and decreases in death anxiety. At 6-month follow-up, these changes were sustained, with about 80% of participants continuing to show clinically significant decreases in depressed mood and anxiety. Participants attributed improvements in attitudes about life/self, mood, relationships, and spirituality to the high-dose experience, with >80% endorsing moderately or greater increased well-being/life satisfaction. Community observer ratings showed corresponding changes. Mystical-type psilocybin experience on session day mediated the effect of psilocybin dose on therapeutic outcomes.ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT00465595.
Project description: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.
Project description:RATIONALE:Although psilocybin and dextromethorphan (DXM) are hallucinogens, they have different receptor mechanisms of action and have not been directly compared. OBJECTIVE:This study compared subjective, behavioral, and physiological effects of psilocybin and dextromethorphan under conditions that minimized expectancy effects. METHODS:Single, acute oral doses of psilocybin (10, 20, 30 mg/70 kg), DXM (400 mg/70 kg), and placebo were administered under double-blind conditions to 20 healthy participants with histories of hallucinogen use. Instructions to participants and staff minimized expectancy effects. Various subjective, behavioral, and physiological effects were assessed after drug administration. RESULTS:High doses of both drugs produced similar increases in participant ratings of peak overall drug effect strength, with similar times to maximal effect and time-course. Psilocybin produced orderly dose-related increases on most participant-rated subjective measures previously shown sensitive to hallucinogens. DXM produced increases on most of these same measures. However, the high dose of psilocybin produced significantly greater and more diverse visual effects than DXM including greater movement and more frequent, brighter, distinctive, and complex (including textured and kaleidoscopic) images and visions. Compared to DXM, psilocybin also produced significantly greater mystical-type and psychologically insightful experiences and greater absorption in music. In contrast, DXM produced larger effects than psilocybin on measures of disembodiment, nausea/emesis, and light-headedness. Both drugs increased systolic blood pressure, heart rate, and pupil dilation and decreased psychomotor performance and balance. CONCLUSIONS:Psilocybin and DXM produced similar profiles of subjective experiences, with psilocybin producing relatively greater visual, mystical-type, insightful, and musical experiences, and DXM producing greater disembodiment.
Project description:Naturally occurring and psychedelic drug-occasioned experiences interpreted as personal encounters with God are well described but have not been systematically compared. In this study, five groups of individuals participated in an online survey with detailed questions characterizing the subjective phenomena, interpretation, and persisting changes attributed to their single most memorable God encounter experience (n = 809 Non-Drug, 1184 psilocybin, 1251 lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), 435 ayahuasca, and 606 N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT)). Analyses of differences in experiences were adjusted statistically for demographic differences between groups. The Non-Drug Group was most likely to choose "God" as the best descriptor of that which was encountered while the psychedelic groups were most likely to choose "Ultimate Reality." Although there were some other differences between non-drug and the combined psychedelic group, as well as between the four psychedelic groups, the similarities among these groups were most striking. Most participants reported vivid memories of the encounter experience, which frequently involved communication with something having the attributes of being conscious, benevolent, intelligent, sacred, eternal, and all-knowing. The encounter experience fulfilled a priori criteria for being a complete mystical experience in approximately half of the participants. More than two-thirds of those who identified as atheist before the experience no longer identified as atheist afterwards. These experiences were rated as among the most personally meaningful and spiritually significant lifetime experiences, with moderate to strong persisting positive changes in life satisfaction, purpose, and meaning attributed to these experiences. Among the four groups of psychedelic users, the psilocybin and LSD groups were most similar and the ayahuasca group tended to have the highest rates of endorsing positive features and enduring consequences of the experience. Future exploration of predisposing factors and phenomenological and neural correlates of such experiences may provide new insights into religious and spiritual beliefs that have been integral to shaping human culture since time immemorial.
Project description:Introduction: It is a basic principle of the "psychedelic" treatment model that the quality of the acute experience mediates long-term improvements in mental health. In the present paper we sought to test this using data from a clinical trial assessing psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression (TRD). In line with previous reports, we hypothesized that the occurrence and magnitude of Oceanic Boundlessness (OBN) (sharing features with mystical-type experience) and Dread of Ego Dissolution (DED) (similar to anxiety) would predict long-term positive outcomes, whereas sensory perceptual effects would have negligible predictive value. Materials and Methods: Twenty patients with treatment resistant depression underwent treatment with psilocybin (two separate sessions: 10 and 25 mg psilocybin). The Altered States of Consciousness (ASC) questionnaire was used to assess the quality of experiences in the 25 mg psilocybin session. From the ASC, the dimensions OBN and DED were used to measure the mystical-type and challenging experiences, respectively. The Self-Reported Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptoms (QIDS-SR) at 5 weeks served as the endpoint clinical outcome measure, as in later time points some of the subjects had gone on to receive new treatments, thus confounding inferences. In a repeated measure ANOVA, Time was the within-subject factor (independent variable), with QIDS-SR as the within-subject dependent variable in baseline, 1-day, 1-week, 5-weeks. OBN and DED were independent variables. OBN-by-Time and DED-by-Time interactions were the primary outcomes of interest. Results: For the interaction of OBN and DED with Time (QIDS-SR as dependent variable), the main effect and the effects at each time point compared to baseline were all significant (p = 0.002 and p = 0.003, respectively, for main effects), confirming our main hypothesis. Furthermore, Pearson's correlation of OBN with QIDS-SR (5 weeks) was specific compared to perceptual dimensions of the ASC (p < 0.05). Discussion: This report further bolsters the view that the quality of the acute psychedelic experience is a key mediator of long-term changes in mental health. Future therapeutic work with psychedelics should recognize the essential importance of quality of experience in determining treatment efficacy and consider ways of enhancing mystical-type experiences and reducing anxiety. Trial Registration: ISRCTN, number ISRCTN14426797, http://www.isrctn.com/ISRCTN14426797.
Project description:The science of meditation has grown tremendously in the last two decades. Most studies have focused on evaluating the clinical effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions, neural and other physiological correlates of meditation, and individual cognitive and emotional aspects of meditation. Far less research has been conducted on more challenging domains to measure, such as group and relational, transpersonal and mystical, and difficult aspects of meditation; anomalous or extraordinary phenomena related to meditation; and post-conventional stages of development associated with meditation. However, these components of meditation may be crucial to people's psychological and spiritual development, could represent important mediators and/or mechanisms by which meditation confers benefits, and could themselves be important outcomes of meditation practices. In addition, since large numbers of novices are being introduced to meditation, it is helpful to investigate experiences they may encounter that are not well understood. Over the last four years, a task force of meditation researchers and teachers met regularly to develop recommendations for expanding the current meditation research field to include these important yet often neglected topics. These meetings led to a cross-sectional online survey to investigate the prevalence of a wide range of experiences in 1120 meditators. Results show that the majority of respondents report having had many of these anomalous and extraordinary experiences. While some of the topics are potentially controversial, they can be subjected to rigorous scientific investigation. These arenas represent largely uncharted scientific terrain and provide excellent opportunities for both new and experienced researchers. We provide suggestions for future directions, with accompanying online materials to encourage such research.