Bad trips might actually be good for your mind. A scary magic mushroom trip can actually increase your sense of well-being, says a new study from John Hopkins University, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
In a demonstration of the old what-doesn’t-kill-you-makes-you-stronger chestnut, 62% of participants rated their worst bad psilocybin trip as "among the top 10 most psychologically difficult or challenging situations of their lives." And yet 76% of those same participants said that the trip "led to increases in current well-being and life satisfaction," and fully 84% thought that the challenges benefitted them. Almost half would repeat their worst trip, including the hardest parts.
That’s not to say you should seek out a bad psychedelic experience. They're not great: Of the 1993 individuals surveyed in the study, 2.6% said they’d gotten physically aggressive or violent, and 2.7% got medical help. And 7.6% sought treatment for "enduring psychological symptoms" over a year after their experience.
These results are all subjective, but then they would be—what’s more subjective than a psychedelic trip? Even so, the numbers point so overwhelmingly in one direction: that the challenges faced during a bad trip lead to a subsequent improvement in subjective well-being.
The study also details the successful strategies employed by the participants to endure a safe trips, and to combat these "challenging" experiences. These included achieving a good emotional state before taking the drug; having supportive and trusted people present, and being in comfortable and safe surroundings.
In fact, most of the dangers of taking psychedelics would be avoided if the experience occurred in a lab environment. The positive effects on well-being could also be much more objectively tested. In fact, in the researchers’ own lab experiments with psilocybin, a few sticky situations were avoided. In one, "a volunteer decided to stand up and engage in expressive movements." In another "a volunteer moved from the couch to the floor while vigorously moving legs and arms in an erratic fashion. In both these cases, supervision meant that nobody came to harm.
Psychedelics have been used for therapeutic purposes at least as far back as Timothy Leary’s LSD experiments in the 1960s. And while this study shows that they can be dangerous both in the short term and the long term, the benefits may outweigh the risks, especially if those risks can be mitigated by controlling the environment, just like they are in other kinds of medical treatments.
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