Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have been studying the effects of psilocybin, a chemical found in some psychedelic mushrooms, that's credited with inducing transcendental states. Now, they say, they've zeroed in on the perfect dosage level to produce transformative mystical and spiritual experiences that offer long-lasting life-changing benefits, while carrying little risk of negative reactions.
The breakthrough could speed the day when doctors use psilocybin--long viewed skeptically for its association with 1960s countercultural thrill-seekers--for a range of valuable clinical functions, like easing the anxiety of terminally ill patients, treating depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and helping smokers quit. Already, studies in which depressed cancer patients were given the drug have reported positive results. "I'm not afraid to die anymore" one participant told The Lookout.
The Johns Hopkins study--whose results will be published this week in the journal Psychopharmacology--involved giving healthy volunteers varying doses of psilocybin in a controlled and supportive setting, over four separate sessions. Looking back more than a year later, 94 percent of participants rated it as one of the top five most spiritually significant experiences of their lifetimes.
More important, 89 percent reported lasting, positive changes in their behavior--better relationships with others, for instance, or increased care for their own mental and physical well-being. Those assessments were corroborated by family members and others.