A medical group at Ohio State University has published an interesting paper that claims that the content of a psychedelic trip can be an effective predictor of the extent of its beneficial, therapeutic effect on the user. This conclusion is supported by an analysis of feedback from almost 1,000 respondents who participated in the remote survey. The analysis itself was carried out with the help of artificial intelligence, which allowed for a more accurate grouping of the described impressions of the psychedelic experience, as well as the effects of the use of the substance associated with specific types of trips.
The standardized survey included 985 people living in Ohio who were officially diagnosed with depression or mental stress disorders and had previously used psilocybin, LSD, mescaline, or DMT. The answers and descriptions of the experience of the psychedelic trip of the respondents were analyzed using AI, which conditionally divided them into three groups that differ in the nature of the content of the trip. Ultimately, after reviewing the findings, the researchers concluded that a trip filled with hallucinations of a religious, mystical, and "transcendental" nature had a more significant and longer-lasting positive impact on consumers than an experience not filled with such visions and sensations.
"The data were divided into three groups based on two features, namely, the presence of mystical and religious content in them, as well as a subjective measure of the "severity" of the sensations experienced by the subject," says Alan Davis, assistant professor and director of the Center for Research on Psychedelic Substances at Ohio State University.
"While in the clinical setting, clinicians try to remove the factor of 'difficult' psychedelic experience from ongoing trials, these data indicate to us that such experience is one of the key determinants of the therapeutic efficacy of a psychedelic."
“Regardless of the substance used by the subject, the experience of all volunteers can be divided into three conditional groups, in accordance with the noted factors. The first group includes people who encountered both “difficult” sensations and mystical experiences during the trip. The second group includes people who have encountered only positive mystical experiences, without feeling difficulties and internal, emotional conflicts during the trip. And finally, a group that includes people who did not have a particularly noticeable mystical experience, while experiencing difficult emotional experiences in the trip,” says another author of the project, Dr. Aki Nikolaidis.
“The first group received the most beneficial effect from the trip, which manifested itself in a steady decrease in the symptoms of the manifestation of diagnosed mental illnesses in a fairly long period of time. The second group experienced a less intense beneficial effect from the substance, despite the similar contents of the trip. The last group of subjects noted that the negative experience of the trip had the opposite effect on the symptoms of diseases, or no effect at all. In general, all this allows us to believe that it is factors such as the severity of the subject's experiences and the nature of the content of the psychedelic experience, which were not previously taken into account by physicians, that can radically affect the overall effectiveness of the use of a substance as a medicine.”
“I note that in order to exclude unnecessary factors, we compared the effectiveness of the corresponding types of trips for people who used substances of similar effect, namely psilocybin and LSD. In summary, we found a surprising correlation between the measure of therapeutic efficacy of these substances with the sensory experience observed in individual trips,” continues Dr. Nikolaidis.
“In other words, a trip that is more intense and emotional in its content is, as it were, more significant in terms of modifying a person’s perception than a light and meaningless trip. Of course, there are some nuances, such as that positive experiences with psychedelics were noted mainly by young people, and also that the described effect of meaningful trips was not so noticeable in subjects with low stress and depression scores, but in general, the described correlation produces a surprising similar results.”
“Since the results of the experiment are based on the subjective experience of people, it is impossible to say exactly how true they are in practice. However, the very existence of such a pattern suggests that the content of the trip, rather than the dosage or type of substance, may play a key role in the use of psychedelics as a drug,” says Dr. Davis.
“In addition, it is difficult for us to establish the depth and nature of the changes described by them only on the basis of the testimony of people. It is difficult to say only from the description whether the detected positive effect is a consequence of a certain effect of psychoactive substances on certain regions of the brain, or is the therapeutic effect really extremely subjective and closely related to the sensory experience produced by the brain at the time of the trip? Only detailed, practical observations will allow us to answer this question.”