How Magic Mushrooms May Change Personality

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How Magic Mushrooms May Change Personality

According to new research, just one strong dose of magic mushrooms can alter someone’s personality for a very long time, possibly even permanently. A study reveals how psilocybin, the psychoactive compound in hallucinogenic mushrooms can make for a more open personality with an effect that can last for more than 14 months. Read on and learn all about how magic mushrooms could alter it.

All it takes is one strong dose of potent magic mushrooms, and a person’s personality may be altered for more than a year, if not permanently, new research suggests.

It has been shown how psilocybin, the active compound in hallucinogenic mushrooms that can bring on visions and at times even spiritual enlightenment changed people’s personality to be more open, and this not just temporarily during the trip. The researchers found the personality-altering effects normally last for at least one year.


An “open” personality, according to experts in the field of human psychology, usually means that someone shows an “appreciation for new experiences”. Likewise, those people who are said to have an open personality are also attributed with an active imagination and a higher value for emotions. Many times, these people display a keen interest in art and creativity and are deemed as having a higher curiosity in general.

One of the researchers involved with the study, Katherine MacLean, tells us that the observed personality wrap is unusual. The reason here is that people’s personality doesn’t usually change much once they reach adulthood - once they reach the ages of 25-30. Some studies go even so far as to suggest that our personality is set in stone at an even younger age, around when we start to go to school.

MacLean, who is a postdoctoral researcher at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, says that their research shows for the first time changes in personality in adults. She goes more into detail and explains that she believes that this change may not be brought on by the drug itself, but by the mystical experiences which can often be profound and transcendent. These experiences, MacLean says, are perceived as feeling no less real despite being chemically induced.

She gives a good example of what she means: "Many years later, people are saying it was one of the most profound experiences of their life. If you think about it in that context, it's not that surprising that it might be permanent."


We could possibly debate whether some of the early tests involving hallucinogenic substances had really been “scientific”. The 1960s, with its flourishing counterculture and drug advocates such as Timothy Leary, saw plenty of “acid tests”, but mainstream science didn’t really sink its teeth into the subject until much later. It is only within the last decade that we have seen a more serious approach to studying the effect of hallucinogens.

Nowadays, these experiments are strictly controlled. Not unlike as in the past, scientists and researchers are still having a hard time getting permission for their studies. Yet, and even despite the research today being less fun as it may have been back in the 1960s, it becomes clear that these substances do indeed have medical potential.

The non-profit research institute of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) in Massachusetts is now looking at the possibility of using MDMA for treating post-traumatic stress disorder. Psilocybin and LSD are now being closer examined for their effectiveness in treating mental conditions, including anxiety. The postdoctoral advisor at the Johns Hopkins University, Roland Griffiths, is conducting a study about the effectiveness of psilocybin to ease anxiety and depression in cancer patients. Yet another study investigates the hallucinogen for its possible use in addiction treatment.

For the current study, MacLean questioned 51 people after being given psilocybin, which is the active ingredient in magic mushrooms. No participant had any previous experience with hallucinogens.


For the research, each participant attended between two and five eight-hour long drug sessions. To encourage introspection, they were blindfolded and listened to music in a comfortable setting. Volunteers only received psilocybin in one session, but this wasn’t revealed to either the participants or to the researchers in which.

One experiment, which took place twice, involved giving the participants psilocybin and the other time Ritalin, a medication that has the ability to mimic the effects of psilocybin but without the psychoactive effect.

A different experiment involved five sessions where the volunteers received either a placebo or varying doses of the drug.

Before each session, the volunteers had been asked to fill out the questionnaire that measured openness. The participants were also asked to fill out the same type of questions one week after their experience and then again after 14 months.

The results of the study, which were published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, showed that while some other personality aspects had stayed the same, openness increased after the experience. This openness was especially pronounced in those people who reported a mystical experience after use. Feelings of profound connectedness together with feelings of joy, unity and peace had also been commonly reported.

MacLean says that it is probably not just the psilocybin that causes these changes but rather these types of profound and life changing experiences, regardless of their flavour. “For a lot of people, psilocybin allows them to transcend their ways of thinking about the world”, MacLean states. She explains that the majority of the 51 volunteers in the study had a mystical experience and that the observed changes in openness that come along with these experiences are larger than the changes that people normally see in their adult life.

The researcher cautions that these types of experiments are not something that people should try at home for themselves. During the research, the volunteers in the study had been well prepared and had been under close supervision for psychological support. This helped to prevent bad trips although many of the participants still reported anxiety, fear and distress during their experiences.

She says that these types of powerful and profound experiences, should they occur in an unsupervised setting and turn into a bad trip with fear and anxiety, could be pretty dangerous. According to her, the risk of such unsupervised usage is not worth the potential reward. Psilocybin is classified as a schedule one drug in the United States, meaning that it is deemed as having no legitimate medical purpose together with a high potential for abuse.

The other issue is that it is not clear whether unsupervised use would even result in the same changes in openness as having been observed in the study. MacLean said that her study group had been small, with most of the participants considering themselves as religious and already more open than many other people.


Next on the list for Katherine MacLean’s research are the effects of psilocybin together with meditation. She explains that there could be therapeutic benefits for increased openness that can possibly help people overcome negative thought patterns. She is also looking into the anecdotal connection between taking hallucinogens and art. According to her, although admitting that this is merely speculative, it may hint at the possibility for a use of psilocybin to boost creativity and intellectual outcomes.