In a new study, researchers found that mindfulness meditation can enhance the positive long-term effects of a single dose of psilocybin, which is found in “magic mushrooms”.
The research was conducted by a team from the University of Zurich.
Hallucinogens such as LSD or psilocybin, the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms,” alter the perception of those who take them.
The boundaries between the self and the world begin to dissolve and feelings of bliss and unity are triggered.
Such experiences of self-transcendence and reduced self-focus are similar to those induced by mindfulness meditation.
They can reduce stress, prompt feelings of enduring happiness and increase empathy and altruism.
In contrast, exaggerated self-focus, recurring negative thoughts and emotions about oneself, and impaired social interactions are characteristic features of psychiatric disorders such as depression.
Recent years have seen a renewed interest in using classic psychedelics in the treatment of depression and anxiety disorders.
In the study, the team for the first time examined the potential synergistic effects of combining mindfulness meditation and psilocybin.
The scientists recruited 40 meditation experts who were taking part in a five-day mindfulness retreat.
The researchers found that mindfulness meditation increased the positive effects of psilocybin while counteracting possible dysphoric responses to the psychedelic experience.
Psilocybin markedly increased the incidence and intensity of self-transcendence virtually without inducing any anxiety compared to participants who received the placebo.
At the four-month follow-up, the meditation experts who had been given psilocybin demonstrated more beneficial changes in psychosocial functioning, better self-acceptance and more empathy than the placebo control group.
The research group found that besides meditation depth, the participants’ openness and optimism were conducive to a positive response to psilocybin.
At the same time, skills that are trained during mindfulness meditation, such as regulating attention and reappraising emotions, seem to buffer potential negative reactions to psilocybin.
Potential for treating affective disorders
The findings suggest that mindfulness training enhances the positive effects of a single dose of psilocybin, and can increase empathy and permanently reduce egocentricity.
This may help develop a better treatment of depression, which is often accompanied by increased self-focus and social deficits.
The study is published in Scientific Reports.
The lead author of the study is Lukasz Smigielski.
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