A recent study conducted by Yale psychologists found that psychedelic drugs can lead to happier moods and feelings of connectedness to others.

Through field studies involving over 1,200 people who attended music festivals throughout the U.S. and U.K., the researchers investigated the effects of psychedelics on positive mood and social connectedness. The Yale team was led by senior author and assistant professor of psychology Molly Crockett. They found that the use of psychedelics increased “transformative experiences” — defined as events that caused “a substantial change in one’s personal values and priorities that [are] practically impossible to accurately imagine in advance.” That, in turn, increased well-being.

“Our new study demonstrates that psychedelic use is strongly associated with a sense of personal transformation and this in turn is associated with positive mood,” Crockett wrote in an email to the News.

Previous studies have shown that psychedelics can make those who take it, including people grappling with mental illness, more social. However, those studies were conducted in a laboratory setting. This one is the first to look at how psychedelics might boost mood in the real world.

Daniel Yudkin, who co-authored the paper and now works at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote in an email that the most important aspect of the study was its “novel way of collecting data.” He added that the large sample size and the natural environment gave them “one of the most true-to-life pictures … in recent history” of the psychological impact of psychedelics.

For millennia, naturally occurring psychedelic substances have been used in medicinal or spiritual contexts. First author of the study, Matthias Forstmann, who now works at University of Cologne, Germany, wrote that over the last decades, psychedelic research into affective disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, has increased. This study confirms the relationship between psychedelic use and positive affective states. It also showed a correlation between psychedelic use and a “blurring [of] the lines between self and outside world, causing feelings of oceanic boundlessness or external unity,” the article states.

“Physiologically speaking, [LSD and psilocybin] are rather harmless, at least when compared to other psychoactive substances that people use,” Forstmann wrote. “Yet, users of psychedelics typically experience some negative physiological symptoms in the early stages of their experiences, such as tension, nausea, sweating or dizziness. Yet, most effects of psychedelics substances, both positive and negative, are mental effects.”

The study was not designed to measure physiological impacts or negative effects that may be associated with use of psychedelics, Crockett said.

Moving forward, the researchers hope to answer many of the lingering questions on the effects of psychedelics on mood. Crockett noted that, in the future, conducting a study that takes into account the type of psychedelic substance used, such as LSD, mescaline, DMT and psilocybin, could give interesting results.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the effects of psychedelics can last as long as 12 hours.

 

Ashley Qin | ashley.qin@yale.edu