In recent years, interest in the clinical use of classical psychedelics for the treatment of depression and anxiety disorders has renewed. Researchers at the University of Zurich have found that mindfulness meditation can enhance the positive long-term effects of a single dose of psilocybin, which is found in some mushrooms, reports MedicalXpress.
Hallucinogens such as LSD or psilocybin change the perception of those who take them. The boundaries between themselves and the world begin to dissolve, and a feeling of bliss and unity arises. Such experiences of self-overcoming and decreased self-focus are similar to experiences of mindfulness meditation. They can reduce stress, create a feeling of constant happiness, and increase empathy and altruism. On the contrary, exaggerated focus on oneself, periodically arising negative thoughts and emotions about oneself and disturbed social interactions are characteristic signs of mental disorders, such as depression.
Researchers at the University of Zurich University Psychiatric Hospital first studied the potential synergistic effects of a combination of mindfulness meditation and psilocybin. Scientists have hired 40 meditation experts. During the study, participants were given either a single dose of psilocybin or a placebo.
Using various psychometric and neurocognitive measurements, researchers were able to find that mindfulness meditation enhances the positive effects of psilocybin, while counteracting the possible dysphoric reactions of the psychedelic experience.
During the four months of observation, meditating experts given psilocybin showed more favorable changes in psychosocial functioning, better self-esteem, and greater empathy than the placebo control group.
The research team found that in addition to the depth of meditation, the openness and optimism of the participants contributed to a positive response to psilocybin. Skills that train during mindfulness meditation, such as regulating attention and re-evaluating emotions, seem to inhibit potential negative reactions to psilocybin.
Our results shed light on the interaction between pharmacological and extrapharmacological factors in psychedelic states of the mind, said one of the authors of the stud adding that they indicate that mindfulness training enhances the positive effects of a single dose of psilocybin and can increase empathy and permanently reduce egocentrism. This opens up new therapeutic possibilities, for example, for the treatment of depression, the author added.