Do psychedelics change beliefs?

Renewed interest in psychedelics has reignited the debate about whether and how they change human beliefs. In both the clinical and social-cognitive domains, psychedelic consumption may be accompanied by profound, and sometimes lasting, belief changes. We review these changes and their possible underlying mechanisms. Rather than inducing de novo beliefs, we argue psychedelics may instead change the impact of affect and of others’ suggestions on how beliefs are imputed. Critically, we find that baseline beliefs (in the possible effects of psychedelics, for example) might color the acute effects of psychedelics as well as longer-term changes. If we are to harness the apparent potential of psychedelics in the clinic and for human flourishing more generally, these possibilities must be addressed empirically.

Psychedelics and connectedness

Psychedelic drugs are creating ripples in psychiatry as evidence accumulates of their therapeutic potential. An important question remains unresolved however: how are psychedelics effective? We propose that a sense of connectedness is key, provide some preliminary evidence to support this, and suggest a roadmap for testing it further.

Treatment of Alcoholism Using Psychedelic Drugs: A Review of the Program of Research

Following Albert Hofmann’s discovery of LSD’s psychoactive properties in 1943, and previous to their scheduling as controlled substances, the psychedelic drugs were widely studied—six international conferences and hundreds of papers discussed their potential therapeutic usefulness. The observation that the frightening experience of delirium tremens sometimes led alcoholics to moderate their alcohol intake suggested to early psychedelic researchers that the “psychotomimetic” experience thought to be produced by LSD could be used to treat alcoholism. A number of hypothesis-generating studies employing a variety of research designs to examine this premise were completed, but relatively few controlled trials attempted hypothesis testing. After twenty-five years of study, a combination of flawed methodology, uneven results and social reprehension led to the abandonment of research on the therapeutic use of psychedelic drugs, leaving many avenues of inquiry unexplored and many questions unanswered. Today, after a thirty-year hiatus, this research is gradually being resumed, and there is renewed interest in the findings of previous studies. This article explores the history of one branch of psychedelic research, the therapeutic use of LSD in the treatment of alcoholism, and of the events that led to the relabeling of the “hallucinogens” as drugs of abuse.

Secret Drugs of Buddhism: Psychedelic Sacraments and the Origins of the Vajrayana

Secret Drugs of Buddhism is the first book to explore the historical evidence for the use of entheogenic plants within the Buddhist tradition. Drawing on scriptural sources, botany, pharmacology, and religious iconography, this book calls attention to the central role which psychedelics played in Indian religions. It traces their history from the mysterious soma potion, celebrated in the most ancient Hindu scriptures, to amrita, the sacramental drink of Vajrayana Buddhism. Although amrita used in modern Vajrayana ceremonies lacks any psychoactivity, there is copious evidence that the amrita used by the earliest Vajrayana practitioners was a potent entheogen. It is the nature of this psychedelic form of the sacrament which is the central topic of this book. In particular, Secret Drugs of Buddhism attempts to identify the specific ingredients employed in amrita’s earliest formulations. To this end, the book presents evidence from many countries in which the Vajrayana movement flourished. These include Bhutan, Japan, Mongolia, and Tibet but special attention is given to India, the land of its origin.

The Soma Drinker of Ancient India: An Ethno-Botanical Retrospection

The juice of the plant Soma, was an uncommon drink, consumed by the Vedic people known as Soma Rasa. It was offered to Gods, considered as divine and contemplated with medicinal efficacy for restorative treatments; being neither hallucinogenic nor intoxicating.The paper presents a brief account of the Soma plant as described in Rig Veda and more research on it in Aayurveda along with search for the proper plant by modern man since the last two centuries.The regime of Soma drink was simple in Vedic description, while as per the Aayurvedic text, it required an intense care unit (ICUSD) for the Soma drinker to take care of the rejuvenating process.

Descending the Mountain

What happens when you administer psilocybin to experienced zen meditators? A neuroscientist and a zen master carry out a double-blind experiment on a sphinxlike mountain in Switzerland. Their goal: to examine the nature of consciousness.

“These substances are not for the sick only, they belong in the hands of meditation”
Albert Hofmann

Exactly fifty years after the ban on psychedelics a group of Zen meditators – who have never used any psychedelic substances before – are given psilocybin on the last day of a 5-day retreat. Half the group receives a placebo.

Mystical experiences are induced through a combination of deep meditation and psilocybin, a psychoactive compound found in magic mushrooms.
This scientific experiment, which was published in Nature magazine in 2020, may lift the controversy that has clouded the realm of psychedelics for far too long.

Scientist Franz Vollenweider and zen master Vanja Palmers descend from the mountain of bliss to teach us how we can integrate mysticism into our day-to-day life.

‘Descending the Mountain’ is a mesmerising testimony of inner climate change that shows us how psilocybin could create a revolution in improving mental health and strengthen our connection with our environment.

Drugs and Narcotics in History

This collection of new essays explores the complex and contested histories of drugs and narcotics in societies from ancient Greece to the present day. The Greek term pharmakon means both medicament and poison. The book shows how this verbal ambivalence encapsulates the ambiguity of man’s use of chemically-active substances over the centuries to diminish pain, fight disease, and correct behaviour. It shows that the major substances so used, from herbs of the field to laboratory-produced synthetic medicines, have a healing potential, and have been widely employed both within and outside the medical profession. Many of these substances, if taken improperly, are also highly toxic or even lethally poisonous. Some, being mood-influencing and habit-forming, are open to abuse and lead to addiction.In these circumstances the status of drugs has often been highly contentious. While medical science has striven to unravel the properties of potent substances, drug users, the medical profession, public opinion and the state have been involved in demarcating ‘proper use’ and approved users–processes that have often led to violent conflicts. The boundary lines between use and abuse in society have been powerfully contested, while ‘alternative’ medicine has often sought to develop milder, purer, or more natural drugs. Clearly, these issues remain unresolved today: some highly addictive and dangerous substances such as cigarettes remain freely available, others are available only on prescription, while others are illegal and the objects of international contraband trade and the targets of ‘drugs wars’.

Bread of Heaven or Wines of Light: Entheogenic Legacies and Esoteric Cosmologies

This is an article in two parts. The first part discusses current research in psychoactive preparations of ergot in various religious systems with a particular emphasis on Persian, Greek, Jewish and Islamic sources. Certain poems, hadith, and scriptural writings suggest an entheogenic heritage to various ancient sects that exerted and received philosophical and ritual influences over large distances and over time. Particularly, some esoteric Shia and Sufi writings are highly suggestive of a “celestial botany” that employed psychoactive plants for initiatory and ritual purposes. The second part will address current research methods that render ergot alkaloids nontoxic and entheogenic, a most crucial part of the discussion in the absence of a modem bioassay. This is essential, as without a chemical reality to support that such a preparation of entheogenic ergot is possible, all ergot theories concerning mystery traditions would remain largely speculative.