Scientists find magic mushrooms could help fight fascism

Researchers find that magic mushrooms can keep people from developing authoritarian views and more connected to nature.

Credit: Getty Images

Researchers found unlikely heroes in keeping the world from authoritarianism - magic mushrooms. Scientists from the Psychedelic Research Group at Imperial College London showed that psilocybin, the active compound in psychedelic mushrooms, makes people less likely to embrace authoritarian views like fascism and more connected with nature.

The study, authored by Taylor Lyons and Robin L. Carhart-Harris, a leading researcher in this field, shows that psilocybin treatment can lead to lasting changes in such mindsets.

"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," write Carhart-Harris and Lyons.

The researchers built on previous studies that showed the specifics of the political views and relationship to nature of psychedelic drug users. A 2017 study of 1,487 people discovered that people on LSD and magic mushrooms were more likely to say they enjoyed spending time in nature and felt connected to it. Another British study from 2017 of 900 people also found that people who use psychedelics experience a greater relatedness to nature and tend to be more liberal or libertarian in their politics.

What Lyons and Carhart-Harris set out to understand in their relatively small current study (involving 14 subjects) was whether using psilocybin could specifically promote anti-authoritarian attitudes and nature-oriented feelings. They compared 7 subjects with major depression, who were resistant to previous treatment and now received two oral doses of psilocybin, to 7 control subjects who were not taking the psychedelic ingredient.

The scientists checked in with the participants before they started treatment, a week into it and after 7-12 months. They found that participants who got the psilocybin had a clear increase in their attitudes of nature-relatedness after just 1 week - an effect they sustained after 7-12 months as well.

Participants like this one relayed how much their connection to nature was transformed:

"Before I enjoyed nature, now I feel part of it," wrote one subject. “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."

These participants also showed a marked and lasting decrease in authoritarian attitudes and had fewer depression symptoms. Those who have not received the drug, showed no such changes.

The study's small sample was partially intentional, to be able to draw some inferences about cause and effects. But it's certainly also a limitation that leaves more to be explored in future studies. One possibility is that psilocybin decreased attitudes that could make one yearn for “dear leader" indirectly by alleviating depression, leading the authors to caution that “it would be hasty, therefore, to attempt any strong claims about a causal influence due specifically to psilocybin at this stage."

Read the new study published in the journal Psychopharmacology.

Higher ed isn’t immune to COVID-19, but the crisis will make it stronger

The pandemic reminds us that our higher education system, with all its flaws, remains a key part of our strategic reserve.

Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • America's higher education system is under great scrutiny as it adapts to a remote-learning world. These criticisms will only make higher ed more innovative.
  • While there are flaws in the system and great challenges ahead, higher education has adapted quickly to allow students to continue learning. John Katzman, CEO of online learning organization Noodle Partners, believes this is cause for optimism not negativity.
  • Universities are pillars of scientific research on the COVID-19 frontlines, they bring facts in times of uncertainty and fake news, and, in a bad economy, education is a personal floatation device.
Keep reading Show less

The mystery of the Bermuda Triangle may finally be solved

Meteorologists propose a stunning new explanation for the mysterious events in the Bermuda Triangle.

Surprising Science

One of life's great mysteries, the Bermuda Triangle might have finally found an explanation. This strange region, that lies in the North Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda, Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico, has been the presumed cause of dozens and dozens of mind-boggling disappearances of ships and planes.

Keep reading Show less

Should churches be considered essential businesses?

A debate is raging inside and outside of churches.

Demonstrators holding signs demanding their church to reopen, protest during a rally to re-open California and against Stay-At-Home directives on May 1, 2020 in San Diego, California.

Photo by Sandy Huffaker / AFP via Getty Images
Culture & Religion
  • Over 1,200 pastors in California claim they're opening their churches this week against state orders.
  • While church leaders demand independence from governmental oversight, 9,000 Catholic churches have received small business loans.
  • A number of re-opened churches shut back down after members and clergy became infected with the novel coronavirus.
Keep reading Show less

What can your microwave tell you about your health?

An MIT system uses wireless signals to measure in-home appliance usage to better understand health tendencies.

John Moore/Getty Images
Technology & Innovation

For many of us, our microwaves and dishwashers aren't the first thing that come to mind when trying to glean health information, beyond that we should (maybe) lay off the Hot Pockets and empty the dishes in a timely way.

Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…