There’s a reason why many psychedelic enthusiasts insist on the term “earth medicines” instead of “drugs.” Plenty of research has found positive medicinal properties in substances like psilocybin (magic mushrooms), but a new study makes a case for a more literal interpretation of the phrase.
In a new “large-scale general population online study,” Yale University and the University of Innsbruck explored the connection between people who have experimented with psychedelic drugs—such as LSD, peyote, ayahuasca, DMT and psilocybin mushrooms—and their likelihood to form environmentally conscious habits (like recycling). The research was conducted using survey data from 1,487 participants.
Unsurprisingly, the study found that those who experimented with these drugs were more likely to take part in “pro-environmental behaviors.” But what’s interesting about these results, is that the study used control methods to single out the direct correlation between psychedelics use and subsequent pro-environmental behaviors, by isolating the research from other factors like their participants’ use of other drugs (like marijuana and alcohol) and personality traits typically associated with environmentalism. So what does this tell us?
According to the study’s authors, this means that people who try psychedelics are not simply predisposed to environmentalism—rather, those who use psychedelic drugs are subsequently more likely to experience an increased concern for the environment, regardless of their previous views and habits.
The researchers write, “As the relationship we found remained significant after controlling for demographic variables and personality traits such as openness to experience, conscientiousness, or political attitudes, it is unlikely that the association we found can be entirely explained by a collection of personality traits stereotypically associated with psychedelic users (e.g., being of the ‘hippie’ type).”
The reason for this, according to the research, is that classic psychedelics tend to increase one’s perception that they are enmeshed in the equilibrium of the natural world. This is in contrast to the belief held by some that humans are independent of nature, which exists as a set of resources to use for the construction of a separate human world (cities, for example). In other words, psychedelics remind us that we’re like…one with nature, man.
Published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, the study’s abstract concludes, “Thereby, the present research adds to the contemporary literature on the beneficial effects of psychedelic substance use on mental well-being, hinting at a novel area for future research investigating their potentially positive effects on a societal level.” The study’s authors, Matthias Forstmann and Christina Sagioglou say that they hope these findings can raise valuable questions about whether these substances should remain under prohibition.
The authors don’t outright advocate the use of psychedelics, but it’s easy to read between the lines. Given the looming existential crisis of climate change, anything that has the potential to increase environmental awareness seems worth a try. Not that I’m suggesting that, for example, sneaking a helping of mushroom-tea into EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s lunch would necessarily be ethical. But scientifically speaking, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.