OPEN Foundation

Personality

Who takes the trip? Personality and hallucinogen use among college students and adolescents

Abstract

Research examining hallucinogen use has identified potential benefits, as well as potential harms, associated with use. The acute effects of hallucinogen use can be intense, disorienting, cognitively impairing, and may result in perceptual changes mimicking aspects of temporary psychosis. Hallucinogen use may also lead to the onset of more chronic issues, such as Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder, which impairs daily functioning even when sober. However, research on factors that predict who will misuse hallucinogens is an understudied area. In particular, while sensation seeking, impulsivity, and emotion dysregulation have all been shown to be predictive of problematic substance misuse, there is almost no research on how these personality variables predict hallucinogen use. The present study assessed how these personality traits predicted hallucinogen use in a sample of college undergraduates (N = 10,251) and a sample of adolescents in an inpatient residential psychiatric hospital (N = 200). Results indicated that facets of sensation seeking, impulsivity, and emotion dysregulation positively predicted ever having used hallucinogens, earlier initiation of use, and lifetime use among college students. Findings also indicated that facets of sensation seeking, impulsivity, and emotion dysregulation positively predicted having ever used hallucinogens in the adolescent inpatient sample. Results highlight the need for more research on who is likely to misuse hallucinogens. If confirmed in future research, the findings presented herein indicate viable personality variables as predictors. This is especially important as there has been a recent explosion of research on the positive benefits of therapeutic hallucinogen use.

Parnes, J. E., Kentopp, S. D., Conner, B. T., & Rebecca, R. A. (2020). Who takes the trip? Personality and hallucinogen use among college students and adolescents. Drug and alcohol dependence, 217, 108263. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2020.108263

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LSD-induced increases in social adaptation to opinions similar to one’s own are associated with stimulation of serotonin receptors

Abstract

Adapting one’s attitudes and behaviors to group norms is essential for successful social interaction and, thus, participation in society. Yet, despite its importance for societal and individual functioning, the underlying neuropharmacology is poorly understood. We therefore investigated its neurochemical and neural correlates in a pharmacological functional magnetic resonance imaging study. Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) has been shown to alter social processing and therefore provides the unique opportunity to investigate the role of the 5-HT2A receptor in social influence processing. Twenty-four healthy human volunteers received either (1) placebo + placebo, (2) placebo + LSD (100 µg), or (3) the 5-HT2A receptor antagonist ketanserin (40 mg) + LSD (100 µg) at three different occasions in a double-blind, randomized, counterbalanced, cross-over design. LSD increases social adaptation but only if the opinions of others are similar to the individual’s own. These increases were associated with increased activity in the medial prefrontal cortex while participants received social feedback. Furthermore, pretreatment with the 5-HT2A antagonist ketanserin fully blocked LSD-induced changes during feedback processing, indicating a key role of the 5-HT2A system in social feedback processing. Our results highlight the crucial role of the 5-HT-system in social influence and, thus, provide important insight into the neuropharmacological basis of social cognition and behavior.
Duerler, P., Schilbach, L., Stämpfli, P., Vollenweider, F. X., & Preller, K. H. (2020). LSD-induced increases in social adaptation to opinions similar to one’s own are associated with stimulation of serotonin receptors. Scientific reports10(1), 1-11., https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-68899-y
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Broadening Your Mind to Include Others: The relationship between serotonergic psychedelic experiences and maladaptive narcissism

Abstract

Rationale: Recent research has shown that classical serotonergic psychedelic (CSP) drugs may be used to ameliorate certain health issues and disorders. Here we hypothesised that CSP experiences, through their ability to induce awe and ego-dissolution, may result in a reduction of maladaptive narcissistic personality traits, such as a strong sense of entitlement and lack of empathy.
Objectives: Our objective was to investigate whether high levels of awe and ego dissolution during recent CSP experiences are associated with currently lower levels of maladaptive narcissism.
Methods: In this pre-registered high-powered (N = 414) study, we used an online retrospective survey asking participants to describe their ‘most awe-inspiring, impressive, significant, or emotionally intense experience’, as well as several validated scales to test our hypothesis.
Results: A statistically significant mediation model indicated that recent CSP-induced experiences were associated with currently increased feelings of connectedness and affective empathetic drive, which in turn were associated with decreased exploitative-entitled narcissism. This relationship held even when taking into account sensation-seeking personality features. We found no evidence for feelings of ego dissolution to have the same effect.
Conclusions: Feelings of awe, but not ego dissolution, during recent CSP experiences were associated with increased feelings of connectedness and empathy, which in turn were associated with decreased levels of maladaptive narcissism personality features. This suggests that CSPs hold therapeutic potential for disorders involving connectedness and empathy, such as the treatment of pathological narcissism, and that the induction of connectedness through awe appears to be the driving force behind this potential.
van Mulukom, V., Patterson, R., & van Elk, M. (2020). Broadening Your Mind to Include Others-The relationship between serotonergic psychedelic experiences and maladaptive narcissism_PREPRINT. PsyArXiv. March10., https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-020-05568-y
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Long-term effects of psychedelic drugs: A systematic review

Abstract

Research into the basic effects and therapeutic applications of psychedelic drugs has grown considerably in recent years. Yet, pressing questions remain regarding the substances’ lasting effects. Although individual studies have begun monitoring sustained changes, no study to-date has synthesized this information. Therefore, this systematic review aims to fill this important gap in the literature by synthesizing results from 34 contemporary experimental studies which included classic psychedelics, human subjects, and follow-up latencies of at least two weeks. The bulk of this work was published in the last five years, with psilocybin being the most frequently administered drug. Enduring changes in personality/attitudes, depression, spirituality, anxiety, wellbeing, substance misuse, meditative practices, and mindfulness were documented. Mystical experiences, connectedness, emotional breakthrough, and increased neural entropy were related to these long-term changes in psychological functioning. Finally, with proper screening, preparation, supervision, and integration, limited aversive side effects were noted by study participants. Future researchers should focus on including larger and more diverse samples, lengthier longitudinal designs, stronger control conditions, and standardized dosages.

Aday, J. S., Mitzkovitz, C. M., Bloesch, E. K., Davoli, C. C., & Davis, A. K. (2020). Long-term effects of psychedelic drugs: A systematic review. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews., 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2020.03.017
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The Psychedelic Renaissance and Its Forensic Implications

Abstract

Recent years have seen a renaissance of research into the use of psychedelic compounds to address various psychiatric conditions. The study of these substances went dormant in 1970 when the United States government passed the Controlled Substances Act, which categorized lysergic acid diethylamide, commonly known as LSD or acid, as a Schedule I drug. The rise of psychedelics in research settings raises questions regarding their risks outside of clinical trials. The available data on the impact of psychedelic use on interpersonal violence and other criminal behavior remain scant. Although Timothy Leary’s work of the 1960s failed to clearly demonstrate a reduction in criminal recidivism with psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, recent studies suggest that the use of psychedelics may reduce individuals’ risk of interpersonal violence. Forensic psychiatrists should be aware of this research, as well as the role that psychedelics may play in various forensic assessments. This article summarizes basic information that the forensic practitioner should know about psychedelic substances, including their various effects and proposed mechanism of action; describes historical and recent research into psychedelics and criminal behavior; and offers evaluators a practical means by which to assess individuals’ psychedelic use in forensic contexts.

Holoyda, B. (2020). The Psychedelic Renaissance and Its Forensic Implications. The journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law48(1), 87-97., 10.29158/JAAPL.003917-20
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Use of Benefit Enhancement Strategies among 5-Methoxy-N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) Users: Associations with Mystical, Challenging, and Enduring Effects.

Abstract

5-Methoxy-N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) is a potent, fast-acting psychedelic. Anecdotal reports from 5-MeO-DMT users suggest that they employ a variety of benefit enhancement (BE) strategies aimed to increase positive effects and decrease any potential challenging effects of the substance, but no empirical study has investigated this claim. We examined the prevalence of BE strategy use using secondary data from a survey of 5-MeO-DMT users (n = 515; Mage = 35.4, SD = 11.7; Male = 79%; White/Caucasian = 86%). Results indicated that BE strategy use was common in this sample. As a secondary aim, we assessed whether the use of BE strategies was associated with acute subjective (i.e., mystical-type, challenging) and persisting effects of 5-MeO-DMT among a subset of respondents who reported using 5-MeO-DMT once in their lifetime (n = 116). Results showed that the use of several BE strategies were associated with significantly more intense mystical-type effects and enduring beliefs about the personal meaning and spiritual significance of their experience, and some BE strategies were associated with less intense or challenging experiences. Data suggests that BE strategies are commonly used, and that the use of BE strategies may be associated with increases in positive mystical-type and enduring effects. The causal influence of BE strategies on acute/persisting effects of 5-MeO-DMT should be examined in longitudinal research.

Lancelotta, R. L., & Davis, A. K. (2020). Use of benefit enhancement strategies among 5-methoxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) users: Associations with mystical, challenging, and enduring effects. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 1-9.,10.1080/02791072.2020.1737763
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Therapeutic mechanisms of psilocybin: Changes in amygdala and prefrontal functional connectivity during emotional processing after psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Psilocybin has shown promise as a treatment for depression but its therapeutic mechanisms are not properly understood. In contrast to the presumed actions of antidepressants, we recently found increased amygdala responsiveness to fearful faces one day after open-label treatment with psilocybin (25 mg) in 19 patients with treatment-resistant depression, which correlated with treatment efficacy.

AIMS:

Aiming to further unravel the therapeutic mechanisms of psilocybin, the present study extends this basic activation analysis. We hypothesised changed amygdala functional connectivity, more precisely decreased amygdala-ventromedial prefrontal cortex functional connectivity, during face processing after treatment with psilocybin.

METHODS:

Psychophysiological interaction analyses were conducted on functional magnetic resonance imaging data from a classic face/emotion perception task, with the bilateral amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex time-series as physiological regressors. Average parameter estimates (beta weights) of significant clusters were correlated with clinical outcomes at one week.

RESULTS:

Results showed decreased ventromedial prefrontal cortex-right amygdala functional connectivity during face processing post- (versus pre-) treatment; this decrease was associated with levels of rumination at one week. This effect was driven by connectivity changes in response to fearful and neutral (but not happy) faces. Independent whole-brain analyses also revealed a post-treatment increase in functional connectivity between the amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex to occipital-parietal cortices during face processing.

CONCLUSION:

These results are consistent with the idea that psilocybin therapy revives emotional responsiveness on a neural and psychological level, which may be a key treatment mechanism for psychedelic therapy. Future larger placebo-controlled studies are needed to examine the replicability of the current findings.

Mertens, L. J., Wall, M. B., Roseman, L., Demetriou, L., Nutt, D. J., & Carhart-Harris, R. L. (2020). Therapeutic mechanisms of psilocybin: Changes in amygdala and prefrontal functional connectivity during emotional processing after psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 10.1177/0269881119895520
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Replication and extension of a model predicting response to psilocybin

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Recent research demonstrated the potential of psychedelic drugs as treatment for depression and death-related anxiety and as an enhancement for well-being. While generally positive, responses to psychedelic drugs can vary according to traits, setting, and mental state (set) before and during ingestion. Most earlier models explain minimal response variation, primarily related to dosage and trust, but a recent study found that states of surrender and preoccupation at the time of ingestion explained substantial variance in mystical and adverse psilocybin experiences.

OBJECTIVES:

The current study sought to replicate the previous model, extend the model with additional predictors, and examine the role of mystical experience on positive change.

METHOD:

A hierarchical regression model was created with crowdsourced retrospective data from 183 individuals who had self-administered psilocybin in the past year. Scales explored mental states before, during, and after psilocybin ingestion, relying on open-ended memory prompts at each juncture to trigger recollections. Controlled drug administration was not employed.

RESULTS:

This study replicated the previous model, finding a state of surrender before ingestion a key predictor of optimal experience and preoccupation a key predictor of adverse experience. Additional predictors added to the explanatory power for optimal and adverse experience. The model supported the importance of mystical experiences to long-term change.

CONCLUSION:

Mental states of surrender or preoccupation at the time of ingestion explain variance in mystical or adverse psilocybin experiences, and mystical experiences relate to long-term positive change. The capacity to recognize this optimal preparatory mental state may benefit therapeutic use of psilocybin in clinical settings.

Russ, S. L., Carhart-Harris, R. L., Maruyama, G., & Elliott, M. S. (2019). Replication and extension of a model predicting response to psilocybin. Psychopharmacology, 1-10., 10.1007/s00213-019-05279-z
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Acute Subjective and Behavioral Effects of Microdoses of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide in Healthy Human Volunteers

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Numerous anecdotal reports suggest that repeated use of very low doses of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), known as microdosing, improves mood and cognitive function. These effects are consistent both with the known actions of LSD on serotonin receptors and with limited evidence that higher doses of LSD (100-200 μg) positively bias emotion processing. Yet, the effects of such subthreshold doses of LSD have not been tested in a controlled laboratory setting. As a first step, we examined the effects of single very low doses of LSD (0-26 μg) on mood and behavior in healthy volunteers under double-blind conditions.

METHODS:

Healthy young adults (N = 20) attended 4 laboratory sessions during which they received 0 (placebo), 6.5, 13, or 26 μg of LSD in randomized order at 1-week intervals. During expected peak drug effect, they completed mood questionnaires and behavioral tasks assessing emotion processing and cognition. Cardiovascular measures and body temperature were also assessed.

RESULTS:

LSD produced dose-related subjective effects across the 3 doses (6.5, 13, and 26 μg). At the highest dose, the drug also increased ratings of vigor and slightly decreased positivity ratings of images with positive emotional content. Other mood measures, cognition, and physiological measures were unaffected.

CONCLUSIONS:

Single microdoses of LSD produced orderly dose-related subjective effects in healthy volunteers. These findings indicate that a threshold dose of 13 μg of LSD might be used safely in an investigation of repeated administrations. It remains to be determined whether the drug improves mood or cognition in individuals with symptoms of depression.

Bershad, A. K., Schepers, S. T., Bremmer, M. P., Lee, R., & de Wit, H. (2019). Acute subjective and behavioral effects of microdoses of LSD in healthy human volunteers. Biological Psychiatry., 10.1016/j.biopsych.2019.05.019
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Narrative identity, rationality, and microdosing classic psychedelics

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Microdosing involves ingesting a small dose of a classic psychedelic (e.g., LSD and psilocybin) at regular intervals for prolonged periods. The practice is said to reduce anxiety, improve mood, and offer several creative and practical benefits to users. Using the narrative identity theoretical framework, our aim was to explore the experiences of those who microdosed classic psychedelics. Specifically, we sought to understand how and why they began microdosing and how they made sense of their actions in the context of their conventional lives.

METHODS:

To understand the experiences of those who microdose classic psychedelics, we rely on data collected from semi-structured interviews with 30 people who had microdosed.

RESULTS:

Participants saw themselves as conventional citizens who microdosed for rational and instrumental purposes. They emphasized the rationality of microdosing by discussing (1) the practicality of their procurement and administration processes, (2) the connection between their microdosing practice and their general awareness in health and wellness, and (3) the benefits of the practice.

CONCLUSION:

Participants described their microdosing in the context of embracing traditional middle-class values. This created social distance between themselves and those who use drugs recreationally. While people who use drugs recreationally typically construct boundaries by distancing themselves from symbolic others (i.e., “crackheads,” “meth heads,” “junkies”), microdosers constructed boundaries by emphasizing connections to conventional citizens who embrace middle-class values. This connection to conventional citizens allows them to normalize their drug use and facilitates persistence.

Webb, M., Copes, H., & Hendricks, P. S. (2019). Narrative identity, rationality, and microdosing classic psychedelics. International Journal of Drug Policy70, 33-39., 10.1016/j.drugpo.2019.04.013
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