Researchers Gain New Insights into Reports of Mystical Psychedelic Experiences

Researchers from the University of Split’s Medical School’s Department of Medical Humanities recently used computerized linguistic tools to gain insight into online reports of mystical psychedelic experiences. The scientists found that intense psychedelic experiences tend to be accompanied by an increase in negative emotions and mystical language in users.

While prior psychedelic-related research typically occurs in clinical settings and leverages structured questionnaires to collect information on mystical psychedelic experiences, the experiences are often limited in depth and nuance. Instead of using questionnaires, the research team analyzed self-reported experiences from actual psychedelic users to obtain new insight into the users’ experiences and learn how people describe their psychedelic experiences in their own words.

The researchers particularly focused on the presence of mystical language in these self-reported descriptions and the emotional sentiment attached to the accounts.

Study author Marija Franka Žuljević says the idea started out of curiosity due to the increasing number of self-reported accounts of psychedelic use online. Žuljević and her colleagues analyzed a massive number of psychedelic trip reports from an online forum called Shroomery.org. While the researchers settled on 7,317 reports mostly associated with psilocybin, the main psychoactive element in magic mushrooms, some of the posts involved alternative psychedelics such as DMT and LSD.

They focused on posts with a self-reported intensity level of mild to extremely intense and used a “mystical language dictionary” to initially analyze the chosen accounts. The researchers then used Linguistic Inquiry & Word Count (LIWC) software to quantify the mystical words in the accounts before deploying the VADER sentiment analysis tool to explore the negative and positive sentiments attached to the self-reported accounts.

Žuljević says the research team chose mystical experiences because they are a “very interesting concept: in the discussion about the potential health benefits of psychedelics.

The team found that 36.7% of the reports had words from the mystical language dictionary. There was also a significant correlation between psychedelic experience intensity and the use of mystical language. However, this relationship between the two wasn’t linear. Rather, it exhibited a U-shaped curve, which suggested that both profound and mild psychedelic experiences can result in the increased use of mystical language. Žuljević posited that this may be because new users are likely to interpret mild experiences as mystical simply due to their novelty.

The research team also discovered that negative sentiment and mystical language had a negative correlation with increased mystical language use, resulting in a slight decrease in negative sentiment in the overall psychedelic experience.

Entities such as atai Life Sciences N.V. (NASDAQ: ATAI) are also studying different psychedelics with a view to developing psychedelic-based treatments for mental-health ailments. More is likely to be learned about the different ways in which hallucinogens trigger the medicinal effects that they have once consumed.

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