Recreational Psychedelic Users Frequently Encounter Complete Mystical Experiences: Trip Content and Implications for Wellbeing

This mixed-methods preprint study sought to assess the implications of psychedelic and mystical experiences occurring outside of the laboratory setting. The study used text mining analyses and a survey (n=1424) to reveal associations between psychedelic use practices, complete mystical experiences, and psychological wellbeing. Mystical experiences resulting from psychedelic use outside of the lab were associated with improved psychological wellbeing.


“A growing proportion of the population is engaging in recreational psychedelic use. Psychedelics are uniquely capable of reliably occasioning mystical experiences in ordinary humans without contemplative or religious backgrounds. While clinical research has made efforts to characterize psychedelic experiences, comparably little is understood about how humans naturalistically engage with psychedelics. The present study employs a mixed-methods approach to examine the content and implications of psychedelic and mystical experiences, occurring outside of laboratory settings. We use text mining analyses to arrive at a qualitative description of psychedelic experiential content by abstracting from over two-thousand written reports of first-person psychedelic experiences. Following up, we conducted quantitative analyses on psychometric data from a large survey (N = 1424) to reveal associations between psychedelic use practices, complete mystical experiences, and psychological wellbeing. Topic-modelling and sentiment analyses present a bottom-up description of human interactions with psychedelic compounds and the content of such experiences. Psychometric results suggest psychedelic users encounter complete mystical experiences in high proportions, dependent on factors such as drug type and dose-response effects. Furthermore, a salient association was established between diverse metrics of wellbeing and those with complete mystical experiences. Our results paint a new picture of the growing relationships between humans and psychedelic experiences in the real-world use context. Ordinary humans appear to encounter complete mystical experiences via recreational psychedelic use, and such experiences are strongly associated with improved psychological wellbeing.”

Authors: Tianhong (Tim) Qiu & John P. Minda


Researchers have long been fascinated with the ability of psychedelics to induce mystical-type experiences and the effect such experiences can have on therapeutic outcomes. While tools such as the Mystical Experience Questionnaire have helped researchers to characterize and quantify mystical experiences in the clinical setting, little is known about the implications of such experiences outside of this setting.

The present study sought to examine these implications and the content of mystical experiences in people using psychedelics outside of the clinical setting. To do so, the researchers used a mixed-methods approach. Firstly, text mining analysis was used to assess over two thousand written reports of first-person psychedelic experiences. The results of this analysis yielded a qualitative description with regards to the content of the psychedelic experience. Secondly, the researchers conducted a quantitative analysis of psychometric data from a large survey (n=1424) to explore the associations between psychedelic use, mystical experiences and psychological wellbeing.

The main findings:

  • Sentiment analysis of trip reports suggest that emotional valence of psychedelic experiences differ by drug type, and certain psychedelics may allow for extreme deviations in positive and negative experiences.
  • Much like in the laboratory setting, encountering a mystical experience depends on drug type and dose response effects, i.e. those who took a higher dose had more mystical experiences.
  • Complete mystical experiences are associated with higher self-reported wellbeing on a range of facets including affect, mood disorder, life meaning, life satisfaction, mindfulness, and wisdom, compared to those without mystical experiences.

The study at hand presents an understanding of the natural interactions between humans and psychedelics without the influence of clinical or laboratory interventions. Another way the bias of the researchers was minimized is by using text mining to come to the themes, so as not to impose their preconceived ideas of what people should report from a trip.

Recreational users experience mystical states and these states are associated with improved psychological well being. This has, of course, been known by many who use psychedelics outside of the lab. This analysis adds another data point as to the existence of these positive outcomes and when they happen. Lest we forget, attention to safety is needed when planning any psychedelic experience, be it recreationally or in a laboratory.

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Study details

Topics studied

Study characteristics

1424 Humans

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