A new study from researchers at The Ohio State University found that, when it comes to a psychedelic experience, the more mystical the better.
The analysis, based on “a machine learning analysis of data from nearly 1,000 respondents to a survey about their previous non-clinical experiences with psychedelic drugs,” indicated that “individuals who scored the highest on questionnaires assessing the mystical and insightful nature of their experiences consistently reported improvements in their anxiety and depression symptoms,” and that “a challenging experience while on these substances, one that feels frightening or destabilizing, can have beneficial results, especially in the context of mystical and insightful experiences,” according to Neuroscience News.
“Sometimes the challenge arises because it’s an intensely mystical and insightful experience that can, in and of itself, be challenging,” said Alan Davis, assistant professor and director of the Center for Psychedelic Drug Research and Education in The Ohio State University College of Social Work, and the lead author on the study.
“In the clinical research setting, folks are doing everything they can to create a safe and supportive environment. But when challenges do come up, it’s important to better understand that challenging experiences can actually be related to positive outcomes.”
The world of psychedelic research has flowered in recent years, as academia has unearthed compelling new findings about how such drugs could treat mental health and other disorders.
Earlier this month, the University of California, Davis announced the launch of the Institute for Psychedelics and Neurotherapeutics, which will be dedicated to advancing “basic knowledge about the mechanisms of psychedelics and translate it into safe and effective treatments for diseases such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, among others.”
The university said that while “other psychedelic science centers have been formed across the country with gifts from philanthropists, the UC Davis institute is notable for also being supported by substantial university funds.”
“Psychedelics have a lot of therapeutic potential, but we can do better,” said David E. Olson, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine at UC Davis, who will serve as the founding director of the new institute.
“Psychedelics have a unique ability to produce long-lasting changes in the brain that are relevant to treating numerous conditions,” added Olson. “If we can harness those beneficial properties while engineering molecules that are safer and more scalable, we can help a lot of people.”
Last week, Olson’s team at UC Davis published a paper that said “location is the key for psychedelic drugs that could treat mental illness by rapidly rebuilding connections between nerve cells.”
The school said that “researchers at the [university] show that engaging serotonin 2A receptors inside neurons promotes growth of new connections but engaging the same receptor on the surface of nerve cells does not.”
“The findings will help guide efforts to discover new drugs for depression, PTSD and other disorders,” said Olson. “Drugs such as LSD, MDMA and psilocybin show great promise for treating a wide range of mental disorders that are characterized by a loss of neural connections. In laboratory studies, a single dose of these drugs can cause rapid growth of new dendrites — branches — from nerve cells, and formation of new spines on those dendrites.”
The study from the researchers at The Ohio State University “is the first to characterize subtypes of the subjective psychedelic experience and link them to mental health outcomes,” according to Neuroscience News.