This survey (n=5618) found that those who used psychedelics (32% of the sample) had increased positive affect and more resilient personality traits (e.g. plasticity) during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Background and aims The COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences represent a major challenge to the mental health and well-being of the general population. Building on previous work on the potential long-term benefits of psychedelics, we hypothesized that lifetime use of these drugs could be linked to better mental health indicators in the context of the ongoing pandemic.
Methods Two anonymous online surveys were conducted between April and June 2020, including questions about lifetime experience with psychedelics and other psychoactive drugs, and psychometric scales designed to measure personality traits, anxiety, negative, and positive affect, well-being, and resilience. Principal component analysis was applied to divide the sample into groups of subjects based on their drug use reports.
Results Five thousand six hundred eighteen participants (29.15 ± 0.12 years, 71.97% female) completed both surveys and met the inclusion criteria, with 32.43% of the sample reporting at least one use of a psychedelic drug. Preliminary analyses showed that certain psychedelics were linked to improved mental health indicators, while other psychoactive drugs exhibited the opposite behavior. Lifetime psychedelic use was linked to increased openness and decreased conscientiousness, and to higher scores of positive affect. The reported number of past psychedelic experiences predicted higher scores of the secondary personality trait beta factor, which has been interpreted as a measure of plasticity. No significant associations between lifetime use of psychedelics and indicators of impaired mental health were observed.
Conclusion We did not find evidence of an association between lifetime use of psychedelics and poor mental health indicators. Conversely, experience with psychedelic drugs was linked to increased positive affect and to personality traits that favor resilience and stability in the light of the ongoing crisis.”
Authors: Federico Cavanna, Carla Pallavicini, Virginia Milano, Juan Cuiule, Rocco Di Tella, Pablo González & Enzo Tagliazucchi
This study is observational and not randomized. This means that we should be very careful with not interpreting correlation for causation. People who use psychedelics may be richer, live in a sunny place, be healthier, or have any other number of characteristics that could protect them from the mental health implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The same could be said for those who use other psychoactive drugs (e.g. heroin). They may live in a poorer neighborhood, have more external stressors, etc. Although other papers point towards tangible positive outcomes of psychedelics (e.g. the increased plasticity also mentioned here), this study can only be a starting point for such further research.
This study was a web-based survey that was conducted in Argentina during the Covid lockdown period. Of those who participated, approximately 1/3rd had used psychedelics. This was mostly LSD (30%) and mushrooms (10%).
The data from the study can be found here.
As expected, the personality traits openness and extraversion were higher for those who used psychedelics more often. But scores on conscientiousness decreased with greater use (between subjects).
“A double dissociation effect is apparent: some psychedelic drugs (mainly psilocybin mushrooms but also LSD and, to a lesser degree, ayahuasca) were associated with lower scores of dimensions linked to mental health impairment (state/trait anxiety, negative affect) and with higher scores of dimensions linked to well-being and resilience (mainly positive affect, autonomy, social ties, and well-being) …”
This study adds to earlier studies (e.g. Krebs & Johansen, 2013) that show no negative correlation between the use of psychedelics and mental health. Or to be more precise, which show a positive relationship between the two.
Find this paper
Journal of Psychedelic Studies
May 4, 2021
Authors associated with this publication with profiles on BlossomEnzo Tagliazucchi
Enzo Tagliazucchi is the head of the Consciousness, Culture and Complexity Group at the Buenos Aires University, a Professor of Neuroscience at the Favaloro University, and a Marie Curie fellow at the Brain and Spine Institute in Paris. His main interest is the study of human consciousness as embedded within society and culture.
Institutes associated with this publicationUniversity of Buenos Aires
UBA is home to the Consciousness, Culture and Complexity & Phalaris Labs. Both labs are led by Enzo Tagliazucchi