Psychedelic ‘Trips’ Really Are Similar to Religious Experiences in Many Ways

September 11, 2020

A growing body of drug research has shown that experiences with psychedelic drugs can be both positive and negative – scary and uncomfortable for some, but leading to improvements in well-being and relationships for others. These substances also show promising early results for treating mental disorders, in controlled doses.

So why the disparity between the good and the bad experiences? A team of researchers questioning 288 individuals on their experiences with psychedelics has found that having a mystical or religious experience on drugs might play an important role.

The study plugs some gaps in our knowledge about how drugs such as LSD and psilocybin induce religious-style experiences, and could tell us more about how to use these substances in treatments.

It also shows that drug highs and spiritual highs can produce the same sort of feelings and moods in people.

“Even when taken for the first time, psychedelics may occasion powerful subjective experiences that share many features with those described by mystics, dedicated meditators, and religious practitioners,” psychologist Samuli Kangaslampi from Tampere University in Finland told PsyPost.

“Some research is beginning to demonstrate that undergoing a mystical-type experience may be linked to improved relationships with self, others, and the natural environment later on.”

The study made use of a Finnish translation of the 30-question Revised Mystical Experiences Questionnaire (MEQ30), which asks volunteers to try to quantify some of the feelings and sensations they’ve had while on psychedelics.

The team assessed different ways of translating MEQ30 to find the most reliable method for accurately reflecting volunteers’ experiences. They then went on to exploring the link between the psychedelic and the spiritual.

Those people who scored highly on the MEQ30 were more likely to describe their experience as mystical, spiritual, or religious, and more personally significant.

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