A team of researchers at London’s Imperial College recently published the findings of a study which sought to measure attitudinal changes in people after they ingested controlled doses of mushrooms containing the psychedelic compound psilocybin. The study found that participants who ingested the mushrooms showed a marked decrease in authoritarian feelings as compared to the control group who were not given the mushrooms.
Shrooms, as mushrooms containing psilocybin are known colloquially, played a significant role in the anti-authoritarian counterculture movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Many users of psychedelic mushrooms report having had profound experiences and often express changes in the way they view the world afterwards. Yet, as the study published by Taylor Lyons and Robin L. Carhart-Harris of Imperial College London in the Journal of Psychopharmacology mentions, sparse research has been done on the link between political beliefs and use of psychedelics.
“Here we show for the first time, in a controlled study, lasting changes in political values after exposure to a psychedelic drug,” the study says. “This is in line with early research showing that recreational LSD users score higher on attitudes of ‘personal liberty’ and ‘foreign policy liberalism’ than control subjects.”
The findings of the study suggest a strong correlation between use of psychedelic mushrooms and a decrease in authoritarian attitudes, but stop short at proving a causal relationship. While participants who were given the mushrooms showed significant decreases in authoritarian attitudes based on answers they gave to a political questionnaire, both one week after taking the mushrooms and at followup sessions seven and 12 months after taking their initial dose, it is difficult to prove these changes are a direct result of taking the mushrooms.
One possible alternative explanation offered by the researchers suggests that the decrease in authoritarian attitudes could be a secondary effect of a decrease in depressive feelings among those who took the mushrooms, another variable measured by the study.
Regardless, the study opens new doors for research into these fascinating little fungi that people have been using for consciousness exploration and as an aid in changing the way they think for thousands of years. And whether or not people are less authoritarian because they’re happier, or because of some change of mind brought about by their psychedelic experience, the evidence continues to mount in support of the argument that psilocybin mushrooms help people more than they hurt people, especially when taken in a safe environment with the right preparation and planning.
Groups like the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies are fighting to normalize and increase the amount of research being done on the use of psychedelic substances. Due to draconian laws imposed by authoritarian drug warriors in governments worldwide, it is often difficult for researchers to get approval to use illegal substances in their research.
It’s worth noting that a substance that may reduce authoritarian attitudes is currently prohibited on account of authoritarianism. There certainly seems to be a correlation there, but this article will stop short of claiming causation.