Can Magic Mushrooms Fight Authoritarianism?

This article was produced in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.

Psychedelic drugs have been associated with anti-authoritarian counter-cultures since the 1960s, but a new study suggests using psilocybin, the psychedelic compound in magic mushrooms, actually makes people less likely to embrace authoritarian views, PsyPost reports. The study conducted by the Psychedelic Research Group at Imperial College London was published in the journal Psychopharmacology.

psilocybin mushrooms (Greenoid/Flickr)
While other studies have linked the use of psychedelics to a greater sense of oneness with nature, openness to new experiences and political and social liberalism, this is the first to provide experimental evidence their use can leading to lasting changes in these attitudes.

In the study, researchers gave two oral doses of psilocybin to seven participants suffering from treatment-resistant major depression while a control group of seven healthy subjects did not receive psilocybin. Researchers surveyed participants about their political views and relationship to nature before the sessions, one week after the sessions, and 7-12 months later.

Subjects who received the psilocybin treatment showed a significant decrease in authoritarian attitudes after treatment, and that reduction was sustained over time. They also reported a significant increase in a sense of relatedness to nature.

"Before I enjoyed nature, now I feel part of it. Before I was looking at it as a thing, like TV or a painting… But now I see there's no separation or distinction -- you are it," one participant told researchers.

Subjects who had not received psilocybin did not exhibit significant changes in attitudes.

"Our findings tentatively raise the possibility that given in this way, psilocybin may produce sustained changes in outlook and political perspective, here in the direction of increased nature relatedness and decreased authoritarianism," wrote study authors Taylor Lyons and Robin L. Carhart-Harris.

That is a significant advance in the research on the links between psychedelics and anti-authoritarianism. That's because this is the first study to suggest that psychedelic use promoted such attitudes and not the other way around.

But while this study's design allows the drawing of some inferences about cause and effect, its small sample size limits the strength of its findings. As Lyon and Carhart-Harris noted in their study, "It would be hasty, therefore, to attempt any strong claims about a causal influence due specifically to psilocybin at this stage."

Still, one can't help but wonder what might happen if, say, Jeff Sessions or Donald Trump or Rodrigo Duterte were to go tripping on 'shrooms. The world might be a better place.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Authoritarianisn

Duterte is a tyrannical creep. As to drugs, Sessions and Trump are merely ignorant. Both have worked toward deregulation, just not on drug policy. The tentative promise of 'shrooms applies more aptly in the case of the Obama Democrats who want to control our lives in all ways, except possibly drugs.

Right and Left authoritarians smell the same to me

I agree Donald Trump is not the only recent president who is fundamentally an authoritarian. My list would go farther back than just Obama, however. If you look carefully at each president all the way back to Herbert Hoover you will see the same love of authoritarian rule. They just couch this love of telling other people what to do in various disguises, such as 'love of country,' 'love of old people,' 'love of the poor,' 'love of capitalism,' 'hatred of communism,' etc. What it all boils down to is 'love of my ideas, hatred of yours.' 

Of course after one skips Coolidge the authoritarians jump back into the line up, in the 20th century most notably Wilson and Roosevelt. Lincoln and Jackson were standouts in the 19th century, both loved pretending to know what everybody, not just themselves, wanted out of life.

Magic Mushrooms

Not a valid inference.  People who experience tripping may find a connection with nature anew.  People who see people turning from authoritarianism to nature see it as a threat to society.  Also, some ancient cultures who used psychotropic plants in their religious practices resorted to human sacrifice.  All in all anything that turns people to question reality and their leaders ideologies will always be seen as a threat to the power structure.  The movements of the people in the sixtes were crushed by politicians through every aspect of our culture and society.

Sessions, Trump, Duterte, Biden

Frankly, my sense is that those guys would have VERY BAD TRIPS. Their current philosophies are so warped and full of contradictions that psychedelics would force them to confront their lies and deal with them. They clearly love their lies and power, thus a MAJOR test of their spirits would happen. That said, I would be among those who would volunteer to sit with them during their trips and do my best to be a positive resource for them so they can truly heal.  Don’t forget to include Joe Biden who lambasted Ronald Raygun for not being tough enough or spending enough on #DrugWar. He has been an unrepentant authoritarian drug warrior far longer than Trump, neck and neck with Sessions I suppose; except Biden has done FAR MORE HARM to our country as a whole, versus just one state (AL). Clearly Joe Biden has been responsible for far more deaths than Duterte; not to mention the $1Trillion dollars he’s helped waste since the 1970’s making our country a war zone. 

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