Over the past couple of years, Big Pharma and investors have poured millions of dollars into psychedelic research. Initial studies have found that psychedelic drugs such as psilocybin, mescaline and ketamine may offer significant mental health benefits.
When paired with physiotherapy, these hallucinogenic drugs can deliver profound benefits against conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and eating disorders. Studies have indicated that psychedelics deliver these benefits by causing users to have profound changes in patients’ beliefs about consciousness, meaning and purpose.
A recently published study sought to understand the association between serotonin receptors, mystical-like experiences, mindfulness and psilocybin. Psilocybin is the main psychoactive agent in magic mushrooms, and in some studies, it has exhibited moderate success against mental health disorders, including treatment-resistant depression and OCD.
Researchers found that study participants who reported mystical-type experiences while under the influence of psilocybin were more likely to exhibit mindfulness. Furthermore, these participants also exhibited reduced activity in their serotonin 2A receptors.
Recognizing the benefits psychedelics can have against a variety of mental health disorders, researcher Anna Søndergaard and her team sought to answer a couple of key questions: Would the enhanced mindfulness experienced after taking psychedelics continue over the near and future term? Was there any correlation between taking psilocybin and having a mystical experience? Did serotonin play any role in mystical experiences or the development of mindfulness?
The researchers defined mindfulness as awareness that develops by “paying attention on purpose in the present moment.”
The researchers recruited 39 participants for their the study, screening the participants for pregnancy, medical issues and drug use before providing them with an appropriate dose of psilocybin. The participants were asked to fill out a mystical experience questionnaire six hours after they took psilocybin and reveal whether they felt ecstasy, a sense of unity, lost their sense of time or couldn’t even describe their experience in words. They were also required to take the Mindful Attention and Awareness Scale three months before and after they were dosed with psilocybin.
Analysis of the final data revealed an 8.1% increase in mindfulness after taking psilocybin. Additionally, the researchers found that participants who had more intense mystical experiences exhibited higher scores for mindfulness, with their brain scans revealing diminished binding activities at serotonin receptors in the right side of the amygdala.
Researchers noted that this may indicate that the right side of the amygdala plays a greater role in mindfulness compared to the left side but stated that more research was needed to determine the role serotonin plays in psychedelic treatment.
The world is likely to learn much more about psychedelics given the pace at which various startups such as Compass Pathways PLC (NASDAQ: CMPS) are undertaking clinical studies on a several of these compounds.
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