Duuude! Did you know that all those magic mushrooms you took way back when may have permanently altered your personality?
Seriously, man. I personally have suspected as much for years, but now researchers at Johns Hopkins are saying the same thing.
You see, it turns out that a single high dose of the hallucinogen psilocybin, the active ingredient in so-called “magic mushrooms,” is enough to bring about a measurable personality change lasting at least a year.
Professor Roland R. Griffiths explains that lasting change is found in the part of the personality known as openness, which includes traits related to imagination, aesthetics, feelings, abstract ideas and general broad-mindedness.
Changes in these traits, measured on a widely used and scientifically validated personality inventory, were larger in magnitude than changes typically observed in healthy adults over decades of life experiences.
So how was the magic shroom study conducted?
Participants completed two to five eight-hour drug sessions, with consecutive sessions separated by at least three weeks. Individuals were informed they would receive a “moderate or high dose” of psilocybin during one of their drug sessions, but neither they nor the session monitors knew when.
During each session, participants were encouraged to lie down on a couch, use an eye mask to block external visual distraction, wear headphones through which music was played and focus their attention on their inner experiences. Personality was assessed at screening, one to two months after each drug session and approximately 14 months after the last drug session.
Griffiths says he believes the personality changes found in this study are likely permanent since they were sustained for over a year by numerous test subjects.
Still, Griffiths notes it remains unclear if the findings can be generalized to the larger population, as nearly all of the participants in the study considered themselves spiritually active – participating regularly in religious services, prayer or meditation.
Nevertheless, Griffiths believes psilocybin may have therapeutic uses and is currently studying whether the hallucinogen can cheer up depressed cancer patients and help people quit smoking.
“There may be applications for this we can’t even imagine at this point,” Griffiths concludes. “And it certainly deserves to be systematically studied.”