Everyone knows how hard it is to change a person, especially after you’ve already married them. New research has found that magic mushrooms, those psilocybin-loaded hallucinogenic fungi, can cause positive, long-lasting and sometimes permanent changes in one aspect of a person’s personality – openness.
In a study lead by Katherine MacLean at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, it was found that psilocybin caused test subjects to be more open and appreciative of new experiences, a trait that persisted for up to 14 months.
Fifty-one volunteers filled out questionnaires about their openness. They then took psilocybin and participated in multiple eight-hour sessions where they listened to music while blindfolded. The doses were varied and some participants got placebos while others received Ritalin, which gives the physical sensation of psilocybin but not the hallucinations. After the sessions, they answered the questionnaires again and did it one more time 14 months later.
Results of the study are in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, which reports that participants who said the drug gave them a “mystical” experience (30 out of 51) with feelings of connectedness and joy also showed an increase in openness. Moreover, the changes were larger than those typically seen in adults over many decades of life experience.
MacLean believes the changes in openness were the result of the mystical experience which was aided by the psilocybin and that other life-changing experiences can also open up openness. She notes that the participants also reported anxiety and distress after taking psilocybin but were under close supervision during the experiment. In other words, don’t try this at home.
The next step in MacLean’s research is looking for ways to connect psilocybin with meditation, using the increase in openness to stimulate positive thinking and creativity. It all starts with change. As MacLean puts it:
This is one of the first studies to show that you actually can change adult personality.
You really can teach an old dog new tricks. All it takes is a little magic.