Can magic mushrooms change political views? That’s what a group of researchers in Europe is trying to find out. Research has already shown that certain psychedelics can alter one’s brain chemistry for the better. But are political views purely neurological? Or are there other factors at play?
Psychedelics and Psychology
A new study by the Psychedelic Research Group at Imperial College London has reached astonishing findings of the therapeutic potentialities of psilocybin, the psychoactive chemical in magic mushrooms.
A first report from the group’s study, released in October, indicated that psilocybin can “reset” the brains of depressed patients. A second report, just published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, indicates that the psychedelic agent may even affect political views.
In the study, seven volunteers suffering from treatment-resistant depression took two oral doses of psilocybin in a clinical setting—10 and 25 milligrams, respectively, one week apart.
The results were measured both by brain scans and personal testimony of the subjects. Psychedelic Research Group leader Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris said, “We have shown for the first time clear changes in brain activity in depressed people treated with psilocybin after failing to respond to conventional treatments.”
He noted that such evidence for such findings has been building for years.
“Based on what we know from various brain imaging studies with psychedelics, as well as taking heed of what people say about their experiences, it may be that psychedelics do indeed ‘reset’ the brain networks associated with depression, effectively enabling them to be lifted from the depressed state,” he said.
Psilocybin and Politics
For the first time, this study looked at psilocybin’s possible effects on political views. Can magic mushrooms change political views?
Volunteers were asked to fill out a questionnaire placing their perspectives on the “Libertarian-Authoritarian” scale before and after being given psilocybin.
They were asked to agree or disagree with statements such as “For some crimes, the death penalty is the most appropriate sentence.” Researchers observed a change in scores tending toward the libertarian end of the spectrum—and the pattern persisted in follow-up administration of the survey one week, seven months and one year after the psilocybin trip.
A second quiz was intended to determine if sensitivity to nature is affected by psilocybin, with questions such as, “My ideal vacation spot would be in a remote, wilderness area.” The results similarly showed that the psilocybin treatment was linked to an average increase in scores.
“Before I enjoyed nature, now I feel part of it. Before I was looking at it as a thing, like TV or a painting… But now I see there’s no separation or distinction—you are it,” one participant told researchers.
Final Hit: Can Magic Mushrooms Change Political Views?
Anecdotal evidence would strongly suggest that psychedelics, like psilocybin, shifts political perspectives. And now, there is research to back up that theory.
One of the study’s co-authors, Taylor Lyons, reports, “Our research raises the possibility that taking psilocybin can produce lasting changes in people’s mental outlook and political perspectives.
Beliefs and attitudes are normally long-held and don’t really change much throughout life – people generally don’t swing from one end to the other, they tend to be quite consistent. The participants only took psilocybin twice, and this change…happened quite rapidly.”
When a study like this is published, it’s easy to get caught up in a fantasy of what the world would be like if everyone went on a magic mushroom trip. Would we all put aside our differences and start to heal the planet together as one human race?
That much isn’t too clear. But it is certainly interesting to see what idealistic hippies have been saying for generations finally being vindicated by the white lab coat set.