Those under the influence of alcohol or opioids did not report the same ‘transformative experiences’ psychedelic users did at music festivals.
Psychedelics have an array of therapeutic potential in treating mood and psychiatric disorders, laboratory research has shown. Many people don’t typically use psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin mushrooms in laboratory settings, though. So a group of Yale scientists decided to go where they reasoned individuals typically consume psychedelics “in the wild” — music festivals.
In these field studies, the researchers found psychedelic users experienced an increase in “transformative experiences.” This was loosely defined as a significant re-orientation of someone’s personal belief system or priorities that didn’t seem possible before taking the psychedelic. These substances also delivered an enhanced connection to community and others and an improvement in mental well-being. These positive effects remained true for users even when the drugs wore off.
“Our results show that people who take psychedelics ‘in the wild’ report positive experiences very similar to those observed in controlled laboratory studies,” Yale postdoctoral fellow Matthias Forstmann said.
These Yale scientists interviewed over 1,200 people at half a dozen music festivals throughout the United States and United Kingdom. Led by senior author and assistant professor of psychology Molly Crockett, the team asked attendees not currently under the influence of psychedelics to describe their recent social interactions, mood, and what substances they’d been using. The goal was to capture the “afterglow” of psychedelic experiences in the field and recognize the linger psychological effects of these substances.
The most pronounced effects were in users who had taken psychedelics within the past 24 hours. Those who drank alcohol or under the influence of drugs like cocaine and opioids didn’t report the “transformative experiences” psychedelic users did, nor did they experience an increased connectedness with others or dramatic mood improvements. Those who abstained from drugs altogether also did not have these feelings.
Crockett added the study was not designed to asses negative reactions or physiological effects in users. More research is necessary to better understand how environmental factors affect these results and what impact the choice of psychedelic substance has on users.
“We are encouraged that our study is consistent with previous laboratory findings showing mood benefits of psychedelics in healthy people and in patients suffering from anxiety and depression,” Crockett said.