OPEN Foundation

P. Hendricks

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
Link to full text

Classic Psychedelics: An integrative review of epidemiology, mystical experience, brain network function, and therapeutics

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to provide an integrative review and offer novel insights regarding human research with classic psychedelics (classic hallucinogens), which are 5HT2AR agonists such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), mescaline, and psilocybin. Classic psychedelics have been administered as sacraments since ancient times. They were of prominent interest within psychiatry and neuroscience in the 1950s to 1960s, and during this time contributed to the emergence of the field of molecular neuroscience. Promising results were reported for treatment of both end-of-life psychological distress and addiction, and classic psychedelics served as tools for studying the neurobiological bases of psychological disorders. Moreover, classic psychedelics were shown to occasion mystical experiences, which are subjective experiences reported throughout different cultures and religions involving a strong sense of unity, among other characteristics. However, the recreational use of classic psychedelics and their association with the counterculture prompted an end to human research with classic psychedelics in the early 1970s. We review recent therapeutic studies suggesting efficacy in treating psychological distress associated with life-threatening diseases, treating depression, and treating nicotine and alcohol addictions. We also describe the construct of mystical experience, and provide a comprehensive review of modern studies investigating classic psychedelic-occasioned mystical experiences and their consequences. These studies have shown classic psychedelics to fairly reliably occasion mystical experiences. Moreover, classic psychedelic-occasioned mystical experiences are associated with improved psychological outcomes in both healthy volunteer and patient populations. We also review neuroimaging studies that suggest neurobiological mechanisms of psychedelics. These studies have also broadened our understanding of the brain, the serotonin system, and the neurobiological basis of consciousness. Finally, we provide the most comprehensive review of epidemiological studies of classic psychedelics to date. Notable among these are a number of studies which have suggested the possibility that nonmedical naturalistic (non-laboratory) use of classic psychedelics is associated with positive mental health and prosocial outcomes, although it is clear that some individuals are harmed by classic psychedelics in non-supervised settings. Overall, these various lines of research suggest that classic psychedelics might hold strong potential as therapeutics, and as tools for experimentally investigating mystical experiences and behavioral-brain function more generally.

Johnson, M. W., Hendricks, P. S., Barrett, F. S., & Griffiths, R. R. (2018). Classic Psychedelics: An integrative review of epidemiology, mystical experience, brain network function, and therapeutics. Pharmacology & therapeutics., 10.1016/j.pharmthera.2018.11.010

 
Link to full text

 

Awe: a putative mechanism underlying the effects of classic psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy

A psychological model of classic psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy informed by contemporary scientific data is presented in this paper. It is suggested that classic psychedelic-occasioned mystical experience is characterized by profound awe, a discrete emotion experienced in the presence of a vast stimulus requiring accommodation of mental structures. Awe, in turn, promotes the small self, a construct that, in the extreme, is analogous to those of unitive experience and ego dissolution. The small self is conceptualized as key to understanding the downstream effects of mystical experience occasioned in the context of classic psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. With this novel theoretical framework in mind, a number of clinical implications and recommendations are provided so as to advance this incipient field of study.
Hendricks, P. S. (2018). Awe: a putative mechanism underlying the effects of classic psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. International Review of Psychiatry30(4), 331-342., 10.1080/09540261.2018.1474185
Link to full text

The relationships of classic psychedelic use with criminal behavior in the United States adult population

Abstract

Criminal behavior exacts a large toll on society and is resistant to intervention. Some evidence suggests classic psychedelics may inhibit criminal behavior, but the extent of these effects has not been comprehensively explored. In this study, we tested the relationships of classic psychedelic use and psilocybin use per se with criminal behavior among over 480,000 United States adult respondents pooled from the last 13 available years of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2002 through 2014) while controlling for numerous covariates. Lifetime classic psychedelic use was associated with a reduced odds of past year larceny/theft (aOR = 0.73 (0.65-0.83)), past year assault (aOR = 0.88 (0.80-0.97)), past year arrest for a property crime (aOR = 0.78 (0.65-0.95)), and past year arrest for a violent crime (aOR = 0.82 (0.70-0.97)). In contrast, lifetime illicit use of other drugs was, by and large, associated with an increased odds of these outcomes. Lifetime classic psychedelic use, like lifetime illicit use of almost all other substances, was associated with an increased odds of past year drug distribution. Results were consistent with a protective effect of psilocybin for antisocial criminal behavior. These findings contribute to a compelling rationale for the initiation of clinical research with classic psychedelics, including psilocybin, in forensic settings.
Hendricks, P. S., Crawford, M. S., Cropsey, K. L., Copes, H., Sweat, N. W., Walsh, Z., & Pavela, G. (2017). The relationships of classic psychedelic use with criminal behavior in the United States adult population. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 0269881117735685.
Link to full text

Classic Psychedelics and Rational Suicide in the Elderly: Exploring the Potential Utility of a Reemerging Treatment Paradigm

Abstract

The objective of the current chapter is to evaluate the potential utility of classic psychedelics including dimethyltryptamine (found in the Amazonian plant decoction ayahuasca), lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), mescaline (found in peyote and other psychoactive cacti), and psilocybin (found in certain mushrooms) in addressing rational suicide among the elderly. An overview of the sociopolitical history of classic psychedelics is presented, followed by an examination of empirical findings pertaining to rational suicide. This chapter concludes that classic psychedelics may counteract rational suicide among the elderly by promoting the perception that life is worth living even in the face of great adversity and encourages future study on this important topic.

Hendricks, P. S., & Grob, C. S. (2017). Classic Psychedelics and Rational Suicide in the Elderly: Exploring the Potential Utility of a Reemerging Treatment Paradigm. In Rational Suicide in the Elderly (pp. 203-210). Springer International Publishing. 10.1007/978-3-319-32672-6_14

Link to full text

The Associations of Naturalistic Classic Psychedelic Use, Mystical Experience, and Creative Problem Solving

Abstract

Developing methods for improving creativity is of broad interest. Classic psychedelics may enhance creativity; however, the underlying mechanisms of action are unknown. This study was designed to assess whether a relationship exists between naturalistic classic psychedelic use and heightened creative problem-solving ability and if so, whether this is mediated by lifetime mystical experience. Participants (N = 68) completed a survey battery assessing lifetime mystical experience and circumstances surrounding the most memorable experience. They were then administered a functional fixedness task in which faster completion times indicate greater creative problem-solving ability. Participants reporting classic psychedelic use concurrent with mystical experience (n = 11) exhibited significantly faster times on the functional fixedness task (Cohen’s d = –.87; large effect) and significantly greater lifetime mystical experience (Cohen’s d = .93; large effect) than participants not reporting classic psychedelic use concurrent with mystical experience. However, lifetime mystical experience was unrelated to completion times on the functional fixedness task (standardized β = –.06), and was therefore not a significant mediator. Classic psychedelic use may increase creativity independent of its effects on mystical experience. Maximizing the likelihood of mystical experience may need not be a goal of psychedelic interventions designed to boost creativity.

Sweat, N. W., Bates, L. W., & Hendricks, P. S. (2016). The Associations of Naturalistic Classic Psychedelic Use, Mystical Experience, and Creative Problem Solving. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 1-7. 10.1080/02791072.2016.1234090
Link to full text

Hallucinogen use and intimate partner violence: Prospective evidence consistent with protective effects among men with histories of problematic substance use

Abstract

Evidence suggests that hallucinogens may have therapeutic potential for addressing a variety of problem behaviors related to the externalizing spectrum of psychopathology, such as substance misuse and criminality. Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a prevalent form of criminal violence that is related to externalizing pathology. However, the association between hallucinogen use and IPV has not been comprehensively examined. In this prospective study, we examined the association between IPV and naturalistic hallucinogen use among 302 inmates at a US county jail. Cox regression analyses indicated that hallucinogen use predicted reduced arrest for IPV independently (β=−0.54, SE=0.20, χ2=7.19, exp(B)=0.58, p<0.01) and after accounting for covariates (β=−0.48, SE=0.23, χ2=4.44, exp(B)=0.62, p<0.05). These results add to a growing literature suggesting distinct therapeutic potential for hallucinogens to assist in the attenuation of problematic behavior.

Walsh, Z., Hendricks, P. S., Smith, S., Kosson, D. S., Thiessen, M. S., Lucas, P., & Swogger, M. T. (2016). Hallucinogen use and intimate partner violence: Prospective evidence consistent with protective effects among men with histories of problematic substance use. Journal of psychopharmacology (Oxford, England). http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0269881116642538
Link to full text

Psilocybin, psychological distress, and suicidality

Abstract

Hendricks et al. (2015) found that having ever used any classic psychedelic substance—namely, dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ayahuasca, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), mescaline, peyote or San Pedro, or psilocybin—was associated with a significantly reduced likelihood of past month psychological distress (weighted OR = .81 (.72–.91)), past year suicidal thinking (weighted OR = .86 (.78–.94)), past year suicidal planning (weighted OR = .71 (.54–.94)), and past year suicide attempt (weighted OR = .64 (.46–.89)) in the United States adult population. Although these findings comport with an emerging literature suggesting classic psychedelics may be effective in the treatment of mental health conditions and prevention of self-harm, they do not speak to the potential risk profile or therapeutic applications of psilocybin in particular, which is the most commonly examined classic psychedelic in contemporary clinical research. Considering that psilocybin may be a candidate for future approved medical use in the United States, the United Kingdom, and other nations (Bogenschutz et al., 2015; Grob et al., 2011; Johnson et al., 2014; see also Nutt et al., 2013), an analysis of the specific relationships of psilocybin use with psychological distress and suicidality may help inform decisions by the United States Food and Drug Administration and regulatory bodies of other nations. The objectives of the current research, therefore, were to extend the analysis of Hendricks et al. (2015) by evaluating the associations of lifetime psilocybin use, per se, with past month psychological distress, past year suicidal thinking, past year suicidal planning, and past year suicide attempt in the United States adult population.

Hendricks, P. S., Johnson, M. W., & Griffiths, R. R. (2015). Psilocybin, psychological distress, and suicidality. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 29(9), 1041-1043. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0269881115598338
Link to full text

Classic psychedelic use is associated with reduced psychological distress and suicidality in the United States adult population

Abstract

Mental health problems are endemic across the globe, and suicide, a strong corollary of poor mental health, is a leading cause of death. Classic psychedelic use may occasion lasting improvements in mental health, but the effects of classic psychedelic use on suicidality are unknown. We evaluated the relationships of classic psychedelic use with psychological distress and suicidality among over 190,000 USA adult respondents pooled from the last five available years of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2008–2012) while controlling for a range of covariates. Lifetime classic psychedelic use was associated with a significantly reduced odds of past month psychological distress (weighted odds ratio (OR)=0.81 (0.72–0.91)), past year suicidal thinking (weighted OR=0.86 (0.78–0.94)), past year suicidal planning (weighted OR=0.71 (0.54–0.94)), and past year suicide attempt (weighted OR=0.64 (0.46–0.89)), whereas lifetime illicit use of other drugs was largely associated with an increased likelihood of these outcomes. These findings indicate that classic psychedelics may hold promise in the prevention of suicide, supporting the view that classic psychedelics’ most highly restricted legal status should be reconsidered to facilitate scientific study, and suggesting that more extensive clinical research with classic psychedelics is warranted.

Hendricks, P. S., Thorne, C. B., Clark, C. B., Coombs, D. W., & Johnson, M. W. (2015). Classic psychedelic use is associated with reduced psychological distress and suicidality in the United States adult population. Journal of Psychopharmacology. https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0269881114565653

Link to full text