People’s personalities rarely change significantly in adulthood – by 30, you’re basically set. In fact, some studies have found that people’s personalities are set by first grade.
However, scientists have recently found that a single dose of psychedelic mushrooms or another hallucinogen can lead to a major change in personality even in people well into adulthood.
Reset your mind
Psilocybin, the primary ingredient in mushrooms, leads to a restructuring of neural pathways. Usually, those are set – neural pathways are built when we’re young and then strengthened over the course of our lives, but not rebuilt. However, psilocybin mutes the existing thought patterns and creates new ones.
Studies run on volunteers have found that taking the hallucinogen – in a tightly controlled scientific setting – can be one of the most meaningful and life-altering experiences of a person’s life. It can change personality based on more than a decade’s worth of experiences even in an adult.
That means it may be able to be used for much more than “tripping,” and should not be limited to being used by people who want to “get high.” Magic mushrooms may have a legitimate use in a number of therapeutic settings.
Treating addiction and PTSD
One institution, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), is researching the possibility of using MDMA, a hallucinogen, to treat PTSD. A separate study at Johns Hopkins is determining the possibility of using psilocybin to treat cancer patients for anxiety and depression or using it to break a nicotine addiction.
There has been limited research on all of this, but the Johns Hopkins studies included a personality questionnaire taken by 51 of the study participants, who were all new to hallucinogenic drugs. The volunteers each spent two to five eight-hour sessions sitting on a couch, blindfolded, listening to music. On some of those days, they took a placebo, and on others, they took a psilocybin pill.
Before the study, the participants filled out a questionnaire measuring openness – a psychological term referring to curiosity, broadness of imagination and appreciation for art and emotion. They filled out the same questionnaire about a month later and again after more than a year had passed.
Even after 14 months, the participants were more open than they had been before taking the drug, especially if they had a “mystical” experience, which more than half of the participants did. Their neurotransmitters led their brains to work in new ways, and that experience led them to think about the world around them in new ways, even long after the immediate effects of the drug had worn off.
Mushrooms, the complementary drug
Meditation has shown many of the same side effects, particularly in helping people break out of negative thought processes – which can lead to depression. By combining the two, some researchers are hoping to find a whole new way to treat people with previously untreatable depression.
Of course, all of these results were found in a strictly supervised scientific study. Since the participants had easy access to medical professionals, the likelihood of a “bad trip” was low, so they did not experience the heightened fear or anxiety that can be associated with that experience.
Changing your personality with mushrooms is still rather difficult for the average person. If done incorrectly, or with the wrong amounts, it could lead to long-term negative effects, especially If the person had a bad experience while on their “trip.” Plus, psilocybin is still a completely illegal drug in the United States which the government considers to have no legitimate medical purpose. Therefore, using it medicinally would be a challenge for most people.
However, if these studies are any indication, that may change someday in the future. With careful supervision and professional care, psilocybin may someday be used to treat difficult mental conditions or even to help people improve their creativity.
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