Article by David Biello
Scientific American July 1st 2008
People who took magic mushrooms were still feeling the love more than a year later, and one might say they were on cloud nine about it, scientists report in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
“Most of the volunteers looked back on their experience up to 14 months later and rated it as the most, or one of the five most, personally meaningful and spiritually significant of their lives,” comparing it with the birth of a child or the death of a parent, says neuroscientist Roland Griffiths of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who led the research.
Griffiths gave 36 specially screened volunteers psilocybin, the active ingredient in so-called magic mushrooms. The compound is believed to affect perception and cognition by acting on the same receptors in the brain that respond to serotonin, a neurotransmitting chemical tied to mood.
Afterward, about two thirds of the group reported having a “full mystical experience,” characterized by a feeling of “oneness” with the universe. When Griffiths asked them how they were doing 14 months later, the same proportion gave the experience high marks for transcendental satisfaction, and credited it with increasing their well-being since then.
But some scientists noted that this psilocybin study was just the first trip on a long journey of understanding. “We don’t know how far we can generalize these results,” cautions neuroscientist Charles Schuster of Loyola University Chicago and a former director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
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