Neuroscientists find God in mushrooms
Wednesday July 12, 2006
By Jeremy Laurance
LONDON - A universal mystical experience with life-changing effects
can be produced by the hallucinogen contained in magic mushrooms,
scientists claimed yesterday.
Forty years after Timothy Leary, the apostle of drug-induced
mysticism, urged his 1960s hippie followers to "tune in, turn on, and
drop out", researchers at Johns Hopkins University in the US have for
the first time demonstrated that mystical experiences can be produced
safely in the laboratory.
They say that there is no difference between drug-induced mystical
experiences and the spontaneous religious ones that believers have
reported for centuries. They are "descriptively identical".
And they argue that the potential of the hallucinogenic drugs, ignored
for decades because of their links with illicit drug use in the 1960s,
must be explored to develop new treatments for depression, drug
addiction and the treatment of intolerable pain.
Anticipating criticism from church leaders, they say they are not
interested in the "Does God exist?" debate. "This work can't and won't
Interest in the therapeutic use of psychedelic drugs is growing around
the world. In the UK, the Royal College of Psychiatrists debated their
use at a conference in March for the first time for 30 years. A
conference held in Basel, Switzerland, last January, reviewed the
growing psychedelic psychiatry movement.
The drug psilocybin is the active ingredient of magic mushrooms, which
grow wild in Wales and were openly sold in London markets until a
change in the law last year.
For the Johns Hopkins study, 30 middle-aged volunteers who had
religious or spiritual interests attended two eight-hour drug
sessions, two months apart, receiving psilocybin in one session and a
non-hallucinogenic stimulant - Ritalin - in the other. They were not
told which drug was which.
One-third described the experience with psilocybin as the most
spiritually significant of their lifetime and two-thirds rated it
among their five most meaningful experiences.
In more than 60 per cent of cases the experience qualified as a "full
mystical experience" based on established psychological scales, the
researchers say. Some likened it to the importance of the birth of
their first child or the death of a parent.
The effects lasted for at least two months. Eight out of 10 of the
volunteers reported moderately or greatly increased wellbeing or life
satisfaction. Relatives, friends and colleagues confirmed the changes.
The study is one of the first in the new discipline of "neurotheology"
-the neurology of religious experience. The researchers, who report
their findings in the online journal Psychopharmacology, say that,
though unorthodox, their aim is to explore the possible benefits of
drugs like psilocybin.
Professor Roland Griffiths, of the department of neuroscience and
psychiatry at Johns Hopkins, said: "As a reaction to the excesses of
the 1960s, human research with hallucinogens has been basically frozen
in time. I had a healthy scepticism going into this. [But] under
defined conditions, with careful preparation, you can safely and
fairly reliably occasion what's called a primary mystical experience
that may lead to positive changes in a person.
"It is an early step in what we hope will be a large body of
scientific work that will ultimately help people."
A third of the volunteers became frightened during the drug sessions
with some reporting feelings of paranoia.
The researchers say psilocybin is not toxic or addictive, unlike
alcohol and cocaine, but that volunteers must be accompanied
throughout the experience by people who can help them through it.
The study is hailed as a landmark by former director of the National
Institute on Drug Abuse, Charles Schuster, in a commentary published
alongside the research.
In a second commentary, Huston Smith, America's leading authority on
comparative religion, writes that mystical experience "is as old as
humankind" and attempts to induce it using psychoactive plants were
made in some ancient cultures, such as classical Greece, and in some
contemporary small-scale cultures.
"But this is the first scientific demonstration in 40 years, and the
most rigorous ever, that profound mystical states can be produced
safely in the laboratory. The potential is great."
Posted by Michael at 12:06 AM
I am so glad they are opening up studying these valuable substances again.
I have also been following the research being done with psylicibin to be used for migraine headaches.
There is so much potential for plant medicine.
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It is great what you are doing with your site. Check out the work of Rick Strassman, in his book DMT the spirit molecule. It is basiically the same type of experiment, only using DMT, the only hallucinogen naturally produced within the brain, yet chemically very similar to many natural halucinogenics.
Very nice! I like it. usa today crossword puzzles
From my experiences and observations, (I am an addictions counselor/former user) most drugs can have beneficial effects with some people. However, I've seen just about every drug misused--many with tragic results. I guess my point is: tell an addict that "shrooms" are good for him and he/she will take them in excess. If a person who was experiencing depression, suddenly feels like she did when she gave birth to her child, wouldn't she want to repeat--and repeat--the drug experience to recapture the high? I would agree, though, that in a controlled situation, mushroom use could have a therapeutic application, but the client would need to be closely monitored.
Hi psychedelic shaman, I've been working with Iboga recently, perhaps you would like to read about my experiences.
Lots of love, Kaetie
Small steps like these may lead to big changes in the future, and for the better. Plants should not be shrugged off. I do not think it is fair that we are kept from mystical experiences by the government. Maybe they don't want us to see the truth.
I am searching for material details the actual ceremonial or healing use of various psychedelics such as mushrooms, peyote, etc. What I mean by that is a detail of how a shaman may conduct a healing experience with the use of pychedelics, a how-to manual if you will. Like Timothy Leary's re-write of the Tibetan Book of the Dead that was a format for conducting an LSD session. Does anyone know where I might find material that has researched and documented these practices?