Just One Psychedelic Drug Trip Can Cause Changes In Personality That Could Last Years

Psychedelics, such as magic mushrooms, LSD and ayahuasca, are known to have powerful effects on the brain, which can significantly alter consciousness. But how do these substances affect our minds in the long-term?

A new review of studies, published in the journal Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, has found that even a single psychedelic trip can lead to changes in personality that can potentially last for years.

A team of researchers from Brazil and Spain analyzed 18 studies conducted between 1985 and 2016, all of which examined the relationship between the use of psychedelics and changes in personality.

Most of these studies primarily focused on three substances: LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), psilocybin (the psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms) and ayahuasca (a powerful hallucinogenic brew, used ritually by the indigenous people of the Amazon).

These drugs produce their effects by binding to receptors of serotonin—a brain chemical which has an influence on our moods and appetites—resulting in hallucinations, euphoria and a host of other sensations.

Read more: Magic mushrooms became hallucinogenic to prevent being eaten

After reviewing the studies, the researchers found that people who took these substances experienced long-term, perhaps even permanent, personality changes compared to people who had never taken them.

For example, the review found that participants in clinical trials who were given a small dose of psychedelics were rated as having more openness than non-users following their trip. In psychological terms, openness—one of the five main personality traits—is made up of different facets including appreciation of new experiences, attentiveness to inner feelings and intellectual curiosity.

"Psychedelic drug users and non-users appear to differ in some personality traits," the authors wrote in their review. "Psychedelics administered in controlled settings may induce personality changes, such as increased Openness and Self-Transcendence."

Psychedelics can lead to lasting changes in personality. Michael Le Roi

Furthermore, these changes in personality were beneficial, having a therapeutic and antidepressant effect on the individuals in question, according to findings from a number of the studies analyzed. These effects were felt, in some cases, for a year or longer.

While the link between psychedelics and personality changes has been investigated by scientists since the 1950s at least, for the latest review, the researchers chose to focus on studies published after 1985 as this period witnessed a significant rise in both the number, and quality, of reports looking into this question.

It is important to note, however, that it is difficult to draw concrete conclusions regarding the link between psychedelics and long-term personality changes, as many of the studies involved small numbers of participants.