Reddit is a haven for all the strange things in the world, and it isn't any less of a haven when it comes to psychonauts. Basically, everyone who trips on any drug - they're on Reddit. (not statistically, but you know what I mean) Is God real? Are aliens on Earth? What is the meaning of life?
These are pretty much the most asked or spoken about topics - for good reason. Everything seems divine when you're tripping so there's bound to be these questions. We know that a hallucinogenic trip is different for everyone, because the effects on the mind are erratic.
But, most people have the clearest ideas of the world and its meaning when they're high - and the patterns of the divine hallucinations are similar for most people. The number of people claimed to have seen God or some other eternal being is countless - and the stories may even sound stupid because they're obviously doing drugs, but, their hallucinations might just be a little real.
The one common trend in most LSD users? Mystical experiences. It's the most common topic on Reddit too, “Personally, I don’t believe in God still, but the experiences I’ve had on heavy doses of acid and shrooms are something beyond human comprehension. It does make me ask myself if this is the afterlife that I’m seeing.” one user wrote.
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine wanted to figure out how these experiences affect people in the long run. Are these encounters with spirituality just manifestations of the mind, or could they actually have some meaning? Taking that into account, researchers conducted an anonymous online survey with over 4,000 participants who said they had experienced a mystical presence or scene irrespective of whether they were under the influence of drugs or not.
The researchers described mystical experiences as “the God of your understanding,” a “higher power,” an “ultimate reality,” or an “aspect or emissary of God.” 3,476 people reported having a mystical experience while under the influence of LSD, psilocybin, ayahuasca, or DMT, and the other 809 people reported these encounters without psychedelics (there was no other instance or trigger mentioned, though.)
But this research wasn't conducted just to find out how many people went through similar experiences - it was more than just that. It was to figure out the long term psychological effects of seeing mystical life or beings.
The research showed that almost every individual had some form of positive psychological changes in their life after their experience. Some people found more and better meaning to life, some were simply much happier and others were convinced of their belief in God.
What's surprising is that over two-thirds of the people in the psychedelics group who identified as atheists before their trip-induced encounter with the mystic world, no longer identified that way. 21% of psychedelics users called themselves non-believers before and after the experience only 8% identified as the same.
But this isn't the only study of its kind - way before this took place some psychologists believed that drugs were a gateway to the Divine. Timothy Leary also conducted an experiment of a similar kind where he gave 10 divinity students of the church LSD to trigger mystical experiences. (this was way before the government screamed "BAN LSD" into our faces.)
In that experiment, 9 out of the 10 participants did, in fact, have divine hallucinations. And after the post-analysis of the results, they found out that this single experience had a huge, long-lasting impact on the candidates.
The candidates seemed to have a better grasp at life, they were more forgiving, kind, and empathetic. They were at peace and didn't feel the strain of life as much - overall, they reported to be happier than they were before the experiment. These results weren't based on just the minutes after the trip, but for a long time after and the psychological impact was affirming and very impactful for each person.
Here's something fun to think about - Hardcore drugs were used as medicines, research on mental health and leisure and they worked. This was in the '50s or so, and then suddenly the drugs were banned under the label of being "extremely dangerous" - they're not wrong - high doses of literally anything can be dangerous. But, these drugs being banned really bummed out a lot of people, especially researchers because they were finally seeing the effects it had on mental illnesses. (hint - they were gooood)
And now, we're beginning to understand the neurological mechanisms responsible for the mystical states and creative thinking psychedelics can produce, and how they can aid the treatment of anxiety and depression. Psychedelics basically reduce the activity of a neural circuit in the brain called the default mode network (DMN).
That just means that you lose your sense of self and everything is real but also not real. The technicalities are a little difficult but essentially - you don't know who you are. Here's how it helps anxiety and depression though, - so since the DMN is now pretty much blocked out, other not so used neural pathways are activated.
These pathways are the ones that trigger constant worry and persistent negative thinking - but these drugs reduce the likeliness of that. Basically, LSD cuts off the worry right at the root - your brain. See, I'm no doctor but all I heard is "hello LSD, bye depression" - and that's something I can get behind.
BUT, here's a warning - I'm just a philosophy student who has high functioning anxiety - so don't listen to me. What you can do instead is, read the hoards of research work from really cool psychologists and scientists - figure out on your own if LSD can actually help us with your study - and then pray that hallucinogens are legalized so we can all chill.