Perhaps a new academic study might help explain some of the weirder outfits worn at raves and rock festivals. A single (high) dose of so-called 'magic' mushrooms was found to change people's personalities, not for a few hours, but for at least a year - making people more 'open', said researchers. The personality disruptions were so intense they were equivalent to the slow changes that occur in people over entire decades - and the researchers found that even after terrifying drug trips, the changes were the same.
Researchers in the field say that after the age of 30, personality doesn't usually change significantly. 'Normally, if anything, openness tends to decrease as people get older,' says study leader Roland R. Griffiths, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The research, approved by Johns Hopkins' Institutional Review Board, was published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
Griffiths says he believes the personality changes found in this study are likely permanent since they were sustained for over a year by many - and speculated that controlled use of the substance could lead to treatments for the depression suffered by cancer patients. He also speculated that the drug could help people give up smoking.
Nearly all of the participants in the new study considered themselves spiritually active (participating regularly in religious services, prayer or meditation). More than half had postgraduate degrees. Volunteers were considered to be psychologically healthy.
'We don't know whether the findings can be generalized to the larger population,' Griffiths says. Griffiths also notes that some of the study participants reported strong fear or anxiety. He cautions, however, that if hallucinogens are used in less well supervised settings, the possible fear or anxiety responses could lead to harmful behaviors.