Hopkins’ psychedelic researchers don’t just want to know whether magic mushrooms can help smokers quit or bring cancer patients peace; they also want to know about the worst trips and their lasting effects.
According to a new study of a survey by Johns Hopkins University researchers, around one in 10 users who had a bad time with psilocybin, known to most of us as “magic mushrooms” or simply “shrooms,” put themselves or others at risk during their scare. A smaller proportion of those people – about one in 38 – said they acted aggressively or violently or sought out medical help while freaking out.
But even for those folks who didn’t reach a happy place via shrooms, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. The survey showed a majority found the experience was still one of the most meaningful or worthwhile experiences of their lives, and a third said it became either a top-five meaningful or spiritual experience for them.
“In a way, it’s not really so surprising,” said research team leader Roland Griffiths in a Q&A with Hopkins Medicine. “When we look back on challenging life events we wouldn’t choose, like a bout with a major disease, a harrowing experience while rock-climbing, or a painful divorce, sometimes we feel later that the difficult experience made us notably stronger or wiser. We might even come to value what happened.”
That’s not to say the bad trips weren’t really all that bad. Three in five respondents who had an unpleasant trip said it was among their top-10 most difficult life experiences.
Griffiths’ colleague and study co-author Robert Jesse pointed out that the long-term outcomes for the most unfortunate of shroom-takers cast doubt on the label of a so-called “bad trip.”
“Our laboratory studies and this survey study support each other in showing that an unpleasant, ‘bad’ experience can sometimes lead to positive outcomes,” Jesse said. “It doesn’t seem accurate, then, to call all of the negative psilocybin experiences categorically ‘bad.’”
Then again, it can be a lot easier for a user to say they had an awful time than to delve into how their scary run-in with psychedelics changed their life. Whatever the right label is, there must be something to the shrooms. Nearly nine percent of Americans – almost 23 million people – say they’ve taken them at some point in their lives, according to 2014 federal survey data.
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