Study finds magic mushrooms encourage free thinking and love of nature

The study aimed to examine whether the stereotypes of those who use psychedelics were true.

Feb 2, 2018
patient getting tested and scanned

(Photo credit should read JohnnyGreig /Getty Images)

A new study from Imperial College in the UK has shown that psilocybin mushrooms can turn us all into lovable tree-hugging hippies.

The study, Published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, sought to build on previous research, but also to investigate certain stereotypes that have defined the culture of psychedelics since the 60s. Namely, closeness to nature and free thinking.

A series of tests were conducted on 14 participants, half of which suffered from treatment-resistant depression (TRD). Psilocybin (the psychoactive chemical compound in magic mushrooms) was administered to the seven patients with TRD in doses that are generally considered to be less than the recreational threshold of a typical trip. The other seven participants were not administered any substances but underwent the same tests to gauge their political opinions and connection to nature.

“Before I enjoyed nature, now I feel part of it. Before I was looking at it as a thing, like TV or a painting…” One participant was quoted as saying, “[But now I see] there’s no separation or distinction, you are it.”

Participants who were administered psilocybin felt a deeper connection to nature and opposition to authoritarian political views after just one week. Those results held steady for up to 12 months after the second dose of psilocybin was administered, while the sober control group experienced no significant changes in either category.

The study suggests that psilocybin mushrooms could help to produce lasting feelings of a greater connection to nature, and place a higher value on individual liberty. Those results were consistent with previous studies conducted by Imperial College and other researchers in the field.

GettyImages 83868450 Snoop Dogg takes us to church with a weed infused Gospel album
The last remains of hallucinogenic mushrooms are disposed of at a mushroom nursery in Hazerswoude, near the Hague, on December 1, 2008. From December 1, hallucinogenic or ‘magic’ mushrooms are illegal in the Netherlands, and may no longer be grown or sold. AFP PHOTO/ANP /KOEN VAN WEEL —netherlands out – belgium out— (Photo credit should read Koen van Weel/AFP/Getty Images)

Early studies conducted by the CIA and other government agencies also appear to replicate these effects. One army study, for example, shows a group of soldiers struggling to take their marching orders seriously while on LSD.

Imperial College has been studying psychedelics for several years now in partnership with the Beckley Foundation. Together they’ve created the world’s first fMRI images of the brain on LSD and psilocybin, and advanced our understanding of these substances as treatments for depression and addiction.

This most recent study was inspired by the counterculture movements of the 60s and 70s which had always been closely associated with psychedelics like magic mushrooms. Until now, no one had ever really studied whether it was these substances which helped the counterculture form its libertarian and environmentalist philosophies, or whether people who see the world in this way are just more likely to take psychedelics.

The researchers point out that this study is only a starting point and that more work needs to be done before we can definitively say that magic mushrooms will make you a hippie. The sample size of 14 is extremely small to be able to say anything definitive and the influence of the therapist who administered the mushrooms might also have been a factor.

“Critically, since treatment with psilocybin involved more than just drug administration,” the study states, “it is quite possible that drug-unrelated factors contributed to the changes…The caring therapeutic model may have been one such factor.”

In addition to a greater connection with nature and a tendency toward a liberal worldview, previous research has shown that those who use psychedelics are also less likely to consider financial prosperity a priority, and place a higher value on altruistic and empathetic acts.

Feb 2, 2018