Study Suggests Psychedelics Reduce Fear of Death by Impacting Metaphysical Beliefs

Therapeutic interest in psychedelics has grown as researchers learn more about the potential of these substances to manage the symptoms of different mental-health conditions and improve the well-being of individuals. Now, new research has determined that psychedelic experiences can cause a decrease in death anxiety, possibly by changing a person’s metaphysical beliefs. This discovery creates new approaches for understanding how these substances may help people deal with existential fears.

For their study, researchers focused on determining if changes in core beliefs on consciousness and the nature of reality could be a key factor in decreasing death anxiety after psychedelics were administered. The researchers recruited 155 participants who had experienced psychedelic trips that they felt had amended their anxieties or attitudes about death. All participants were required to be fluent in English, be at least 18 years of age, and have experience with at least one classic psychedelic, such as DMT, LSD, ayahuasca, mescaline or psilocybin.

The participants were all recruited via social media and online platforms, centering on groups specific to psychedelics.

Each participant was required to complete an anonymous online poll, where they gave details about their use of psychedelics as well as their most significant experience with the drugs. In addition to this, they were asked questions on their attitudes and beliefs about death three months prior to and three months after their psychedelic experiences.

The researchers determined that a total of 81 participants reported a reduction in their anxiety regarding death, as indicated by a negative change score, while 57 participants reported an increase, as indicated by a positive change score. Additionally, 17 participants reported no change.

Participants also demonstrated a considerable overall increase in beliefs that focused on the separation of body and mind, particularly beliefs on nonnaturalism and the existence of another realm apart from the physical.

One important finding was the correlation between changes in the belief that consciousness is a basic quality of all things in the universe and changes in death anxiety. This suggests that believing that consciousness extends beyond physical death may help reduce fears of death.

The research did have some limitations, however, including its cross-sectional model, which limited the ability to establish causal relationships between changes in metaphysical beliefs, psychedelic experiences and a drop in death anxiety.

The retrospective nature of the study was also a limitation because it meant that the recall accuracy of the participants could be biased by their present attitudes and beliefs.

The research was authored by Sam G. Moreton, Kayla J. Giese and Noah N. Barr. Its findings were reported in “Death Studies.”

Many enterprises like atai Life Sciences N.V. (NASDAQ: ATAI) are conducting psychedelic drug development programs. As these efforts advance, more information could become available about the effects that different psychedelics can have on people’s health and wellness.

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