Naturalistic use of psychedelics is related to emotional reactivity and self-consciousness: The mediating role of ego-dissolution and mystical experiences

This survey (n=1,661) found that a higher number of lifetime uses of psychedelics predicted greater positive and lower negative emotional reactivity while measures of self-consciousness predicted greater reflection and internal state awareness, reduced rumination tendency and public self-consciousness. The intensity of past mystical and ego-dissolution experiences mediated almost all the observed relationships between the lifetime number of psychedelic uses and psychological variables.

Abstract

Background: Psychedelics are able to acutely alter emotional reactivity and self-consciousness. However, whether the regular naturalistic use of psychedelics can be linked to more persistent trait-level changes in these domains remains an open question.

Aim: To test the hypotheses that (1) using psychedelics is related to higher positive and lower negative emotional reactivity; (2) an adaptive pattern of self-consciousness, including diminished public self-consciousness and rumination, and increased reflection and self-awareness; and (3) these relations are mediated by the intensity of past ego-dissolution and mystical experiences.

Method: An online survey including questions about the history of psychoactive substance use; questionnaires measuring trait levels of emotional reactivity and self-consciousness; questionnaires for retrospective assessment of ego-dissolution and mystical experiences. Data collected from 2516 participants (1661 psychedelics users) were analyzed using robust linear regression and mediation analysis.

Results: A higher number of lifetime uses of psychedelics predicted greater positive and lower negative emotional reactivity; also, in the domain of self-consciousness, it predicted greater reflection and internal state awareness and reduced rumination tendency and public self-consciousness. Finally, the intensity of past mystical and ego-dissolution experiences mediated almost all the observed relationships between the lifetime number of psychedelic uses and psychological variables.

Conclusions: Lifetime psychedelics use predicts an adaptive pattern of trait-level emotional reactivity and self-consciousness. Ego-dissolution and mystical experiences are essential in understanding the long-lasting psychological effects of psychedelics use. Our findings might potentially explain previous observations of increased well-being in psychedelics users.”

Authors: Paweł Orłowski, Anastasia Ruban, Jan Szczypiński, Justyna Hobot, Maksymillian Bielecki & Michal Bola

Study details

Compounds studied
Psilocybin Ayahuasca LSD DMT

Topics studied
Personality

Study characteristics
Survey

Participants
2516 Humans