A new study suggests that a single dose of psilocybin -- the active ingredient in "Magic Mushrooms" -- can result in improved personality traits over the long term.
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that individuals who received the drug once in a clinical setting reported a greater sense of "openness" that often lasted 14 months or longer, according to study published this week in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
The study defined openness as a personality trait that "encompasses aesthetic appreciation and sensitivity, imagination and fantasy, and broad-minded tolerance of others' viewpoints and values." It is one of five main personality traits that are shared among all cultures worldwide.
Of the 51 participants, 30 had personality changes that left them feeling more open. Other personality traits (extroversion, neuroticism, agreeableness and conscientiousness) were not impacted. Only the participants who said they had a "complete mystical experience" while on the drug registered an increased sense of openness.
"The mystical experience has certain qualities," lead author Katherine MacLean said. "The primary one is that you feel a certain kind of connectedness and unity with everything and everyone."
Because personality traits are generally considered to remain stable throughout a persons lifetime, researchers are excited about therapeutic implications of the study.
"[T]his study shows that psilocybin actually changes one domain of personality that is strongly related to traits such as imagination, feeling, abstract ideas and aesthetics, and is considered a core construct underlying creativity in general," study author Roland R. Griffiths told USA Today. "And the changes we see appear to be long-term."
Griffiths is researching whether the drug can help cancer patients deal with depression and anxiety or help smokers curb their habit.
"Certainly we want to underscore do not try this at home," he added. "Because clearly there are several kinds of potential downsides. One is that personality changes are personality changes. Now, we don't have any reason to think that the changes we see are toxic in any way. It appears to be a change that people value in a positive way. But certainly more research needs to be done."
In a smaller study published earlier this year, Johns Hopkins scientists determined the the proper dose levels needed to create positive changes in attitudes, mood, life satisfaction, and behavior.