New research suggests psychedelic drugs can be almost as life altering as near-death experiences
Occasionally, people who suffer intense turmoil and trauma undergo a profound change. They feel a new sense of wellbeing, purpose and appreciation of life. Their relationships become more authentic and intimate. They feel as if they’ve woken up and are living in a more intense way.
In my recent book Extraordinary Awakenings, I show that transformation often follows bereavement, cancer diagnosis, a period of depression or addiction or time in prison. However, I’ve found the most transformational event human beings can have is a near-death experience (NDE), when a person either comes extremely close to death or dies for a short time.
I was fascinated to read a recent new study, comparing the transformational effects of NDEs and psychedelics, conducted by researchers at John Hopkins University School of Medicine in the US.
The study analysed the experiences of over 3,000 people who reported changes in their attitude to death after either a psychedelic experience or an NDE. Four psychedelic substances were examined, including psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) and ayahuasca, a South American brew which contains the natural hallucinogen DMT.
In the study, people described both drug and NDE experiences that brought a more positive attitude to death, with less fear. People reported significant increases in psychological insight, welfare and meaning in their lives.
The study found some differences between different psychedelics. Compared to people who took psilocybin or LSD, those who took ayahuasca or DMT reported longer-lasting and more positive effects.
An unlikely connection
Participants described both types of experience as spiritual or mystical, featuring a sense of oneness, transcendence, sacredness and awe. These elements were stronger in psychedelic experiences. However, people who had NDEs were more likely to report the event as “the single most meaningful, spiritually significant, insightful and challenging experience of their lives.”
Published: October 03, 2022
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