Thanks in part to the recent psilocybin decriminalization movements in Denver, Colorado, Oakland, California, Oregon, and soon other parts of the United States, more and more research is being done into the benefits of this amazing natural substance.

Psilocybin users have been quite aware of the possible benefits of “magic mushrooms” for mental health and personal growth for years, decades, and in some cases, even centuries. The decriminalization movement has helped to legitimize the claims of these users to some extent, and has encouraged further research on the possible applications of psilocybin in psychological settings.

One aspect of psilocybin that is being investigated is the similarities between the psychoactive experience of psilocybin ingestion and traditional meditation practices. It seems that the similarities between these two things is great, and researchers and psychologists seek to find out how the two can perhaps be used together for rapid and positive results in the mental health realm.

Read on to learn more about the similarities between meditation and a psilocybin experience, and the ways that therapists hope to use them together in the future to help people with a variety of mental health issues.

How Does Psilocybin Work?

Recent studies suggest that psilocybin works by actually decreasing activity in certain parts of the brain. This decreased activity encourages our brain to let go of our natural inclination to put things in order, and as a result, leads to greater and more thorough experiences of the sensory world around us.

When a person ingests psilocybin, blood flow is decreased to both the medical prefrontal cortex and the posterior cingulate cortex.  Activity in the medical prefrontal cortex has been connected to both depression and personal identify; the fact that this area receives less blood and therefore less oxygen during a psilocybin experience may help to explain the feelings of both euphoria and “oneness” that so many describe afterwards.

How Does Meditation Work?

Research on meditation has shown that the same parts of the brain – the medical prefrontal cortex and the posterior cingulate cortex – are affected during a mediation session as those affected by a psilocybin experience.  The experience of meditation also, not so coincidentally, often results in a feeling of both euphoria and “oneness.” In fact, these results are perhaps two of the primary goals of meditation practice for many.

Meditation and Psilocybin

Because the ways that these two very different things affect the human mind are so similar to one another, researchers are taking notice and are trying to learn more about the connection between them and are also trying to determine if they can be used together for positive results.

One study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine seems to suggest that they can. The study was published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in the beginning of 2018, more than a year before the psilocybin decriminalization movement celebrated its first success in Denver.

The Johns Hopkins study sought to determine not only whether meditation and psilocybin, when paired, had positive effects, but also to determine whether or not those effects, if positive, would be long lasting.

In order to conduct this study, researchers recruited seventy-five subjects who had no experience with psychoactive substances nor with meditation. The subjects were divided into three groups, and each group received two separate psilocybin doses of varying strength, administered a month apart, and training on meditation.

Prior to their psilocybin experiences, subjects were required to fill out lengthy questionnaires about their moods, attitudes, behaviors and spiritual experiences.  They were also asked to name three people from their everyday life who could be interviewed about potential personality changes (or lack thereof) after their psilocybin and meditation experiences.

The results were favorable.  Six months after the beginning of the study, the participants in the two groups that received higher dosages demonstrated significantly positive changes in a number of areas including closeness with others, feelings of gratitude, understanding of the meaning of life, acceptance of the inevitability of death, and overall religious faith.

Although much more research is needed in the area of psilocybin in general and in the connection between psilocybin experiences and meditation, this work suggests that the two things can be used together for positive results in many participants. Certainly, the people who participated in this study were volunteers and were open to the idea that this would work for them, but it appears that this sort of method could likely be used to help individuals who are suffering from a variety of mental health issues like depression or worse.

Psilocybin Can Heal

More and more research today must be dedicated to finding the ways that psychoactive substances can work to help people. These substances have shown time and time again through anecdotal evidence that they can and do help people make changes in their attitudes and beliefs that they can also help individuals with no specific problems make great strides in their own personal growth.

Thankfully, recent decriminalization of psilocybin in some parts of the United States has helped to re-ignite research towards further understanding in this realm. Hopefully, in time, psilocybin and other psychoactive substances will become more and more accepted as excellent tools for human understanding and development.

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Resources:

  1. https://www.wired.com/story/the-heady-thorny-journey-to-decriminalize-magic-mushrooms/
  2. https://ultraculture.org/blog/2014/06/30/magic-mushrooms-meditation/
  3. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/how-meditation-works_b_4702629
  4. https://digest.bps.org.uk/2018/01/19/psilocybin-from-magic-mushrooms-plus-meditation-and-spiritual-training-leads-to-lasting-changes-in-positive-traits/