Pin It
Psychedelics in lockdown
Photography Ernest Ojeh, via Unsplash

Does doing psychedelics make you more accepting of a world in crisis?

A new study suggests they make you more tolerating of distressing situations, which may explain their rise to popularity during lockdown

Is everyone you know suddenly doing psychedelics? With life immeasurably altered due to the coronavirus crisis, more and more people seem to be turning to the likes of magic mushrooms, truffles, and acid to make sense of this unfamiliar world. Now, a new study offers an explanation as to why psychedelics might actually be perfect for lockdown.

Research published in Frontiers in Psychiatry suggests that psychedelic drugs can improve users’ mental health by making them more accepting of distressing situations – for example, a global pandemic.

Speaking to PsyPost, the study’s author, Richard Zeifman, said: “Our findings suggest that one of the reasons that psychedelic therapy has positive therapeutic effects is that it helps individuals to be less avoidant and more accepting of their emotions, thoughts, and memories (even though such experiences may be distressing in the short-term).”

For the study, researchers recruited participants via online ads – 104 of them had planned to use psychedelics, while 254 were due to attend psychedelic ceremonies. Both groups completed surveys about their depression severity, experiential avoidance, and suicidal thoughts one week before and four weeks after taking their drug of choice – mostly shrooms, LSD, and ayahuasca.

The results showed that psychedelic use in both ceremonial and non-ceremonial settings resulted in less experiential avoidance, as well as a decrease in depression and suicidal thoughts.

“In contrast with the traditional pharmacological interventions, the effects of psychedelic therapy appear to last months and even years after treatment has ended,” continued Zeifman. “Understanding how psychedelic therapy leads to long-lasting mental health improvements across a range of conditions is not yet fully understood, but is important for enhancing and delivering psychedelic therapy to individuals that may benefit from it.”

In a recent article for The Guardian, Robin Carhart-Harris, the head of the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London, wrote: “Like the present pandemic, a psychedelic drug experience can be transformative – of the individual, and of society. Both illuminate the extent to which the condition of the world we inhabit is dependent on our own behaviours. And these, in turn, are a consequence of how we feel, think, and perceive.”

Scientists have been highlighting the benefits of psychedelic therapy for years, with past studies linking their use to a long-term reduction of depressionpositive life changes, and an increase in creativity. In April, a charity in Australia suggested that MDMA and psilocybin – found in magic mushrooms – could help treat mental health in a post-lockdown world.

In July, after a study revealed a connection between regular DMT use and belief in a higher power, Dazed spoke to a handful of people who found God after taking psychedelics. “Your mind is the door and it has a lock,” Alex said at the time. “Psychedelics are the key to open the door.”