Scientists have found a way to measure the "mystical" effects of psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms

photo credit: Scientists have found a way to measure the “mystical” effects of psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms. Psilocybe Cubensis – Ecuador by afgooey74 via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Ever since LSD was first synthesized back in the 1930s, psychotherapists have been interested in using hallucinogenic drugs to treat a range of mental disorders. However, attempts to do so have struggled to gain widespread support from the medical community, partly because the visionary voyages these substances generate are so idiosyncratic, and therefore difficult to analyze. Yet a team of researchers believe they have now found a way to scientifically study the “mystical experiences” produced by psilocybin-containing mushrooms, potentially opening the door for their use in psychological therapy.

Publishing their findings in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, the team defines “mystical experience” using four central characteristics. These include a sense of “mysticism,” meaning a sensation of sacredness or unity with all things, “positive mood,” “transcendence of time and space,” and “ineffability” – or feeling that the experience is beyond words.

The team of psychiatrists and neuroscientists from the John Hopkins University School of Medicine have developed a 30-item Mystical Experience Questionnaire, called the MEQ30, which addresses all four of these elements and can be used to obtain an overall score to describe the intensity of the mystical experience. This was achieved by analyzing data collected from five laboratory-based experiments, in which a total of 184 participants were given moderate to high doses of psilocybin and asked to describe their experience.

For instance, in order to determine the level of “mysticism,” the MEQ30 asks participants to state how strongly they felt connected to “ultimate reality.” Data relating to “transcendence of space of time,” meanwhile, is extracted from the degree to which participants lost their “usual awareness of where [they] were.”

More crucially, the study authors claim that scores obtained from the MEQ30 can be accurately used to predict the long-term effects of psilocybin use, since the data revealed that those who achieved greater mystical experiences also reported continued improvements in their state of mind further down the line. This builds on previous studiesstudies which have revealed that patients who are deemed to have had a “complete” mystical experience on psilocybin are more likely to feel increased well being or life satisfaction 14 months later

full article at IFL