Research on Psychedelics for Optimal Outcomes
Psilocybin – the active ingredient in psilocybin truffles, served at Synthesis – has been at the forefront of scientific research into the efficacy of classic psychedelics in facilitating many optimal outcomes. This is the primary reason we offer psilocybin in a controlled, safe, modern setting: the evidence suggests that working with psilocybin is the most effective way to experience the proven benefits of responsible psychedelic use.
The first modern research to investigate psilocybin’s unique properties was Roland Griffiths’ groundbreaking paper in 2006, showing that the substance induced profound mystical experiences that carried significant personal meaning.
Since then, dozens of studies have shown that psilocybin is effective at treating several clinical issues – including depression, alcoholism, and addiction – as well as highlighting the importance of the mystical experience in healing.
At Synthesis, we go beyond clinical research, focusing on the relationship between responsible, intentional psilocybin use and meaningful experiences for people who are seeking personal development and transformation.
One of our goals at Synthesis is to contribute to research about the efficacy of psilocybin in facilitating optimal body, mind, and spiritual wellness. By combining psilocybin with other modalities (such as sound meditation, yoga, and breathwork) and measuring outcomes for well being, we will build a database of optimal mind-body approaches to personal development.
Below, we summarize some of the most critical research carried out on classic psychedelics so far:
1. Problem Solving - Jim Fadiman
Jim Fadiman’s study from 1966 evaluated whether the use of a psychedelic substance in a supportive setting leads to the improvement of performance in solving professional problems.
The participants of the study consisted of 27 male subjects engaged in a variety of professions: sixteen engineers, one engineer-physicist, two mathematicians, two architects, one psychologist, one furniture designer, one commercial artist, one sales manager, and one personnel manager. 19 of the subjects had no previous experience with psychedelics. Each participant was required to bring a professional problem they had been working on for at least three months, and to have a desire to solve it.
Each group of four subjects met for an evening session several days before the experiment. They received instructions and introduced themselves and their unsolved problems to the group. Approximately one hour of pencil-and-paper tests was also administered.
At the beginning of the day of the experiment session, subjects were given 200 milligrams of mescaline sulphate. After the initial tests, subjects had four hours to work on their chosen problems. After the working phase, the group would discuss their experiences and review the solutions they had come up with.
Solutions obtained in the experiment include:
a new approach to the design of a vibratory microtome
a commercial building design, accepted by the client
space probe experiments devised to measure solar properties
design of a linear electron accelerator beam-steering device
engineering improvement to a magnetic tape recorder
a chair design, modeled and accepted by the manufacturer
a letterhead design, approved by the customer
a mathematical theorem regarding NOR gate circuits
completion of a furniture-line design
a new conceptual model of a photon, which was found useful
design of a private dwelling, approved by the client
insights regarding how to use interferometry in medical diagnosis application sensing heat distribution in the human body
The participants also reported experiences of enhanced functioning, including: low inhibition and anxiety, capacity to restructure problem in broader context, enhanced fluency and flexibility of ideation, heightened capacity for visual imagery and fantasy, increased ability to concentrate, heightened empathy with external processes and objects, heightened empathy with people, subconscious data more accessible, association of dissimilar ideas, heightened motivation to obtain closure, visualizing the completed solution.
Although this experiment had no control group, so we can’t say for certain whether the psychedelics in this study objectively improved the capacity for problem-solving; the participants undoubtedly found the experience helpful in aiding the creative process. This study paved the way for future investigations into the creativity-enhancing potential of classic psychedelics.
2. Mystical Experiences - Roland Griffiths
Roland Griffiths and his team at Johns Hopkins carried out a breakthrough study showing the relationship between psilocybin use and mystical experiences. This double-blind study evaluated the acute and longer-term psychological effects of a high dose of psilocybin relative to a comparison compound. The psilocybin was administered under comfortable, supportive conditions, much like the environment we create at Synthesis.
The participants were psychedelic-naïve adults reporting regular participation in religious or spiritual activities. Two or three sessions were conducted at two-month intervals.
During the psilocybin session, study participants were encouraged to close their eyes and direct their attention inward. Immediately afterwards, study participants completed questionnaires assessing drug effects and mystical experience. They completed a similar survey two months after the initial sessions.
After the two month mark, study participants rated the psilocybin experience as having substantial personal meaning and spiritual significance and attributed sustained positive changes in attitudes and behavior to their psilocybin experience. When administered under supportive conditions, psilocybin occasioned experiences were very similar to spontaneously occurring mystical experiences.
It’s not just religious people who experience mystical effects from psilocybin. Other studies by Roland Griffiths have shown that the therapeutic benefits of psilocybin are directly linked with the intensity of the mystical experience it induces – in the treatment of both depression and tobacco addiction. In other words, the more mystical the experience, the greater the healing benefits – even in non-religious people.
Psilocybin has been shown to induce powerful, personally meaningful spiritual experiences, that stay with you long after the session. Many people report the psilocybin experience as one of the most memorable of their lives.
Psilocybin’s potential for personal transformation is clear when administered in a supportive and guided environment. This mystical experience is what we aim to provide at Synthesis, by providing the ideal setting for meaningful spiritual experiences with lasting benefits.
3. Dissolving The Default Mode
One of the most famous recent studies into psychedelics examined the effect psilocybin had on the brains of volunteers, using high-resolution brain imaging. One of the findings of this study was that psilocybin has a dramatic effect on the default mode network, or DMN. This is a system responsible for self-reflection and rumination (among other things). Although the DMN holds an important role in our everyday consciousness, its hyperactivity has been linked to depression and anxiety.
12 patients with severe depression were recruited in a study using psilocybin-assisted therapy. The participants went through two therapy sessions, lasting several hours each; the first with a 10mg dose of psilocybin, and the second with a 25mg dose. At both one week and three months after treatment, depression scores were compared to those before the therapy. Brain imaging analysis was also carried out before and after the psilocybin sessions.
Providing these depressed patients with psilocybin-assisted therapy reduced their depression scores (measured by the Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptoms questionnaire) by more than half – and this reduction lasted for at least three months. This magnitude of reduction in the QIDS score is highly unusual for a single treatment session.
Additionally, brain scans revealed that the DMN had been significantly affected by the psychedelic-assisted therapy. Psilocybin appeared to be “resetting” depressed patients’ brains by turning the DMN off and on again.
What do these results in depressed patients mean for the average person interested in the transformative power of psychedelics?
Temporarily releasing the brain from the control of the DMN can do more than treat depression. According to the "entropic brain" theory, deactivation of the DMN pushes the brain towards a less organized, less constrained state of being. In other words, more unusual connections can be made between areas of the brain that are normally kept separate.
This means that psychedelics allow us to reach states of consciousness more similar to dreaming and creative thinking. From what we know, the DMN is partly responsible for restraining creativity during your normal life, enabling you to focus on important “follow-the-rules” tasks. But if you really want to unleash your creative side, psychedelics will help to release the control of the DMN over your brain.
So the results of these studies show how psychedelics could break you out of a normal mode of thinking, helping you think outside the box and change the way you process the world. At Synthesis, this facet of the psychedelic experience is fully harnessed to produce truly unique states of mind.
4. Restructuring Personality
It’s something of a stereotype that using psychedelics can change your personality. We’ve all heard the trope of a straight-laced accountant taking a dose of ayahuasca and becoming a yoga teacher in Barbados.
Although psychedelics are unlikely to change you beyond recognition, they can certainly produce positive changes in some personality traits.
Here we cover three experiments dealing with psychedelics and personality change. Katherine MacLean, Matthew Nour, and Matthias Forstmann all lead studies into the effects that a psychedelic experience can have on core personality traits such as openness, empathy, and nature-relatedness. In the first study, participants took part in a high-dose psilocybin session, and changes in core personality traits were measured. In the latter two studies, surveys measured participants’ personality scores and related them to reports of past psychedelic use.
In MacLean’s study, a single high-dose session with psilocybin produced a dramatic increase in the personality trait of openness – meaning sensitivity, tolerance and acceptance – and this change remained significant one year after the dose.
The results of the surveys (by Nour and Forstmann, respectively) showed that people who had had intensely meaningful psychedelic experiences were more likely to have liberal political views, display traits of openness, and appreciate nature to a greater extent.
These studies, being well controlled and designed, suggest that taking psychedelics can significantly change personality traits, and produce more compassion, empathy, and connection to nature.
At Synthesis, we believe that these personality changes can significantly benefit the psychedelic user, making for a happier, more self-actuated person.
5. Other Research
Aside from these three main areas of interest, psilocybin has been the focus of a myriad of additional research.
Psilocybin has been shown to have significant benefit in the treatment of cluster headaches, a debilitatingly painful condition with very few effective medications. Nearly 50% of cluster headache sufferers who used psilocybin described it as more effective than traditional treatments at preventing cluster episodes.
As well as the groundbreaking study on psilocybin in the treatment of depression, researchers have shown that psilocybin could also be used to treat anxiety suffered by people with terminal illness. Administering psilocybin as a palliative treatment significantly reduced scores of anxiety and depression in these patients, and the positive effects lasted six months or more.
Psilocybin’s effects on the DMN have also been investigated in the treatment of OCD, where an overactive DMN is considered to be a factor in the symptoms of the condition. One study showed that a single dose of psilocybin, given to nine sufferers of OCD, significantly reduced symptoms for at least a day following the treatment.
As an anti-addictive treatment, psilocybin shows much promise. In studies on both alcohol and tobacco addiction, psilocybin treatment significantly reduced addictive behaviors, and these effects lasted many months following the session.
All of this research, regardless of its focus, comes together to produce one clear message: psychedelics are powerful, and can transform your life.
At Synthesis, we plan on utilizing the findings of all this research to maximize the transformative power of psychedelics for people willing to seek it out. If you think you’ve got that drive and desire for adventure and change, fill out our application form now!
6. Further Reading
Read the mainstream media’s take on psychedelic research in “The Trip Treatment” - an editorial in the New Yorker.
Learn more about psilocybin and the current state of psilocybin research in “The Essential Guide to Psilocybin” - by The Third Wave.
Read a psychedelic researcher’s opinion on what psilocybin research means for people with depression: “Psilocybin, the Anti-Antidepressant”
Follow the latest developments in psilocybin research by following the Psychedelic Research Group at Imperial College London.
Concerned about what a psychedelic trip is like? “What to Expect on a Psilocybin Mushroom Trip” guides you through the typical psilocybin experience.
Even in non-ideal environments, psilocybin can have profoundly transformative effects. Hear about one journalist’s experience with a makeshift psilocybin retreat in Vice.
Interested in why psilocybin seems to induce a mystical experience? Read more here: “What is so Important About the Mystical Experience?”
Journalist and author Michael Pollan describes a beautiful and meaningful psilocybin journey in this excerpt from his book, published in The New York Times.
Learn more about the creativity-boosting characteristics of psilocybin in this summary of the research: “Can Psychedelics Make You More Creative?”