Johns Hopkins Researchers Document Different Psychedelic-Induced Belief Changes

Psychedelics have become popular in the scientific community these past few years. Long prohibited by federal law, psychedelics are now enjoying a renaissance that is predicted to cause major waves in the psychiatry industry. Initial studies have found that hallucinogenic drugs such as psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine can have significant mental health benefits, especially when they are paired with psychotherapy.

Over the past couple of years, the pharmaceutical industry and investors have injected millions in funding psychedelic research with the aim of developing psychedelic-assisted therapies capable of treating debilitating mental health conditions such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Researchers from John Hopkins Medicine recently published a study outlining their efforts to understand how psychedelics induce a myriad of profound belief changes in users. Results of the study were published in the “Journal of Psychopharmacology” and explore the mechanisms behind psychedelics’ ability to cause acute changes in mood, perception and cognition.

The scientists found that even a single psychedelic experience resulted in a substantive boost in a variety of nonphysicalist beliefs. The psychedelic experience was also associated with an increase in beliefs about meaning, purpose and consciousness, with researchers finding that there was a close association between the qualitative features of a psychedelic experience and the magnitude of belief changes in users after the experience.

Researchers delved into data gathered from 2,374 people who had gone through a belief-changing psychedelic experience between August 2020 to July 2021. The participant group had an average age of 35, and 67% of them were male, with 43% of the overall participants reporting that it was their first time ever consuming psychedelics.

The Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers gave the participants a survey that asked them to rate their feelings about 45 belief statements from before their psychedelic experience compared to after the experience. Once the participants filled out the poll, the researchers analyzed the results and divided the beliefs into five factors. The analysis revealed that there was a notable increase in dualism, spirituality and nonmammal consciousness.

Dualism is the belief that the body and mind can be separated, spirituality covers a range of spiritual or paranormal beliefs, and nonmammal consciousness refers to the belief that trees, rocks, and insects are capable of experiencing consciousness. Mammal consciousness, on the other hand, refers to whether nonhuman mammals such as cats and dogs are capable of having conscious experiences.

Furthermore, the number of participants who believed in a higher power went up from 29% before the experience to 59% after the experience.

The documentation of these belief changes opens an entire flood gate regarding how those effects can be leveraged for human benefit, and it will be exciting to see what the ongoing trials by companies such as atai Life Sciences N.V. (NASDAQ: ATAI) uncover.

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