Psilocybin Research


RR Griffiths, WA Richards, U McCann, R Jesse. 2006. "Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance." Psychopharmacology (Berl). 187(3), 268-83, commentaries 284-292.

2006 Hopkins/CSP psilocybin paper here;
the journal's editorial and commentaries here;
press release here; Q&A here.


RR Griffiths, WA Richards, MW Johnson, UD McCann, R Jesse. 2008. "Mystical-type experiences occasioned by psilocybin mediate the attribution of personal meaning and spiritual significance 14 months later." Journal of Psychopharmacology, 22(6), 621-632.

2008 Hopkins/CSP psilocybin paper here;
press release here; backgrounder/Q&A here.


MW Johnson, WA Richards, RR Griffiths. 2008. "Human hallucinogen research: guidelines for safety." Journal of Psychopharmacology, 01 July.

2008 safety paper here.


Scientific American articles on contemporary hallucinogen studies, December 2010

Roland R. Griffiths and Charles S. Grob, "Hallucinogens as Medicine" here;
Maria Estevez, "High Light: When a Psilocybin Study Leads to Spiritual Realization" here.


RR Griffiths, MW Johnson, U McCann, WA Richards, BD Richards, and R Jesse. 2011. "Psilocybin occasioned mystical-type experiences: immediate and persisting dose-related effects." Psychopharmacology, 15 June.

2011 dose-effect study here;
press release and supplemental material here.


KA MacLean, MW Johnson, and RR Griffiths. 2011. "Mystical experiences occasioned by the hallucinogen psilocybin lead to increases in the personality domain of openness." Journal of Psychopharmacology, 29 Sept.

2011 openness paper here.


KA MacLean, MW Johnson, M-MS Leoutsakos, and RR Griffiths. 2012. "Factor Analysis of the Mystical Experience: A Study of Experiences Occasioned by the Hallucinogen Psilocybin." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 51(4):721-737.

2012 mystical experience factor analysis here.



About CSP

Why This Work? Reflections from Huston Smith, Ann and Sasha Shulgin, and other distinguished commentators.




2011 Media Coverage
  • ABC News Want to Be More Open-Minded? Magic Mushrooms Found to Help

  • CBS News Magic mushrooms improve personality? What study says
  • Bloomberg Magic Mushrooms Can Make Lasting Personality Changes, Hopkins Study Finds
  • LiveScience 'Magic Mushrooms' May Permanently Alter Personality

  • WebMD Magic Mushroom Drug Has an 'Anti-Aging Effect' on Personality
  • Tehran Times Magic mushroom drug may improve personality in long term

  • TIME 'Magic Mushrooms' Can Improve Psychological Health Long Term
  • Gizmag Johns Hopkins study finds Psilocybin dosage 'sweet spot' for positive and lasting effects
  • The Lookout / Yahoo Far out: Magic mushrooms could have medical benefits, researchers say
  • CBS News Do "magic" mushrooms have medicinal value?
  • MSNBC 'Magic mushrooms' could help treat addiction

  • Mother Jones Geeky Stats About Magic Mushrooms
  • LiveScience 'Magic Mushrooms' Could Treat Depression & Addiction
  • ZME Science Magic Mushrooms can treat depression and addiction, study shows

  • WebMD Magic Mushrooms Drug Shows Promise as Therapeutic Tool
  • Med India "Sacred Mushroom" Chemical Being Probed in Johns Hopkins Study
  • Business Insider Johns Hopkins Study Finds That Controlled Magic Mushroom Use Is Safe And Has Lasting Benefits
  • GOOD Why We Need to Take Magic Mushrooms Seriously
  • Religion Dispatches High on Drugs: Breaking the Just Say No Addiction
  • Nacional (Croatia) Halucinogene gljive novi lijek za depresiju i ovisnost?
  • Volny Halucinogenní houbičky mohou léčit deprese, tvrdí američtí vědci



2010 Media Coverage

  • New York Times Hallucinogens Have Doctors Tuning In Again, 11 April.



2008 Media Coverage

As of July 4, 2008, google news reports 581 articles on the Hopkins/CSP psilocybin findings [search performed at 11:33:00 PDT].



2006 Media Coverage

The July 2006 publication of the first Hopkins/CSP psilocybin study drew media attention around the globe (including some 300 print articles according to Google, plus magazine, radio, and TV coverage). Here's a sampling:



From The Economist, 13 July 2006:

The God Pill

Hallucinogens induce lasting spiritual highs in the religious

ONE June night in Mexico in 1955, Gordon Wasson, a vice-president of J.P. Morgan, became one of the first outsiders to eat what the Aztecs called teonanacatl, the flesh of the gods. Actually, it is the flesh of a fungus, and it soon became known to hippies as the magic mushroom. But, whereas the flower children of the 1960s and their descendants gobbled the hallucinogenic fungi in search of a good time, the Aztecs had a deeper purpose. They used the mushrooms in religious ceremonies for healing, divination and communing with the spirit world.

Now a study led by Roland Griffiths of Johns Hopkins University, and published this week in Psychopharmacology, has shown that psilocybin – the active component in magic mushrooms – does indeed induce mental states akin to the highest religious experiences. Moreover, it has lasting positive effects on those who take it.

Experiments involving drugs of any kind need to have a control – that is, an otherwise identical experiment in which something other than the drug is administered – to check that any effects are caused by the drug and not something else. Ideally, neither experimental subjects nor researchers should know who is in the control group, but for experiments involving psychedelic drugs this is difficult, because it quickly becomes apparent who is high and who is not.

For his control, Dr Griffiths decided to use methylphenidate hydrochloride, otherwise known as Ritalin, a drug that calms hyperactive children. On one of two occasions, he gave 36 volunteers who had never taken hallucinogenic drugs either psilocybin or Ritalin, swapping the drugs on the second occasion. The choice of Ritalin was inspired. Neither the volunteers nor the experimenters could say reliably which drug was being administered on which occasion.

A close eye was kept on the volunteers for eight hours after the drugs were given, to check all was well. They were then asked about their experience. Two-thirds of the participants, who were mostly middle-aged college graduates, ranked being given psilocybin as either the best or in the top five best experiences of their lives – on a par with the birth of a first child. They described feeling peace, intense happiness and a sense of the unity of all things.

The participants were no strangers to spiritual highs. Almost all engaged at least monthly in religious or spiritual activities such as prayer or attending religious services, and were selected for participation in the trial on this basis. Yet two months after the trial, 79% of them reported moderately or greatly increased well-being or satisfaction. Their positive changes in attitudes and behaviour were confirmed by independent assessments made by friends and family.

Why this should be is not yet well understood. Psilocybin is thought to work by mimicking serotonin. This is one of the messenger molecules that carry signals between nerve cells in the brain, and it is known to influence mood. But there has been little research of late. Clinical studies using psilocybin and other hallucinogens were halted when recreational use of the drugs took off. They have only just resumed after a four-decade hiatus.

Dr Griffiths and his colleagues argue that the mood-lifting effects of hallucinogens might be used to treat drug and alcohol addiction. Psilocybin itself is not addictive, although they recommend that its availability should continue to be limited. Psychedelic drugs could even be used to probe the basis of consciousness, according to Solomon Snyder, one of Dr Griffith's colleagues. Dr Snyder believes that investigation of such drugs could help scientists understand the molecular changes in the brain that underlie religious experiences.

Back in the 1950s, Gordon Wasson spent years gaining the trust of Amerindians who had continued the religious traditions of their pre-Columbian ancestors. Eventually he was allowed to partake of the mushroom. His experience, from which he said he emerged awestruck, started a short period of study that ended prematurely because of the mushroom's widespread recreational use. By showing it is possible to conduct such research responsibly, Dr Griffiths has opened the door for further work to be done on the properties of psychedelic drugs.

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