Spiritual effects of "sacred mushrooms" last more than a year

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Washington, July 1 : A new study led by Johns Hopkins researchers has revealed that mystical experiences produced by psilocybin, found in "sacred mushrooms" are likely to persist for longer period.

In the study involving 36 volunteers researchers found that the beneficial effects of hallucinogen were likely to last more than a year.

The subjects given psilocybin increased their sense of well-being or life satisfaction.

"Most of the volunteers looked back on their experience up to 14 months later and rated it as the most, or one of the five most, personally meaningful and spiritually significant of their lives," said lead investigator Roland Griffiths, Ph.D., a professor in the Johns Hopkins departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Neuroscience.

"While some of our subjects reported strong fear or anxiety for a portion of their day-long psilocybin sessions, none reported any lingering harmful effects, and we didn't observe any clinical evidence of harm," he added.

He also said that that study results gives credence to the claims that the mystical-type experiences some people have during hallucinogen sessions may help patients suffering from cancer-related anxiety or depression and may serve as a potential treatment for drug dependence.

In the related paper, researchers also offered recommendations for conducting this type of research.

The guidelines cautioned against giving hallucinogens to people at risk for psychosis or certain other serious mental disorders and detailed guidance is also provided for preparing participants and providing psychological support during and after the hallucinogen experience.

These "best practices" contribute both to safety and to the standardization called for in human research.

"With appropriately screened and prepared individuals, under supportive conditions and with adequate supervision, hallucinogens can be given with a level of safety that compares favourably with many human research and medical procedures," said that paper's lead author, Mathew W. Johnson, Ph.D., a psychopharmacologist and instructor in the Johns Hopkins Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

The team also said that if hallucinogens are used in less well-supervised settings, the possible fear or anxiety responses could lead to harmful behaviours.

The study is published in Journal of Psychopharmacology.

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