Cross-Cultural Comparison of Values, Beliefs, and Sense of Coherence in Psychedelic Drug Users

Past research has linked the use of psychedelic substances to profound spiritual change (Pahnke 1966; Doblin 1991). In a high-dose psychedelic experience, users may claim to encounter God, to merge with the cosmos or undergo death and rebirth. Reports from many users resemble Buddhist or Hindu descriptions of self-realization, satori or enlightenment. This mystical experience is said to have a universal aspect that transcends cultural context. If psychedelic drugs can produce mystical experiences, then the values and beliefs of psychedelic users should differ in crucial respects from those expressed by users of other illicit drugs such as cocaine or heroin. Further, the values and beliefs of psychedelic users should be similar across different cultures. The present study tested these hypotheses by examining different types of drug users in Israel and Australia, specifically comparing the values, beliefs and sense of coherence (an index of physical and mental well-being) of users of psychedelic drugs with users of non-psychedelic illicit drugs (marijuana, heroin, cocaine, etc.), and with non-users of illegal drugs.

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