After decades of being ignored by the scientific community, psychedelics are seeing renewed interest, and have become the topic of various studies relating to human health, wellness, and mood. In the lab, researchers have observed patients experience radical shifts in mood and mental state, with many self-reporting significant reductions in depression, anxiety, and symptoms of PTSD as a result.
Now, in a study published by the National Academy of Sciences, new evidence suggests that these positive effects and transformative experiences occur among individuals taking psychedelics in “the wild”, and could even impact social connectedness. Social connectedness refers to how closely we associate ourselves with others, and whether we include others in our self-image.
Field Study Method
The study was conducted with the central goal of determining whether psychoactive substances could elicit a heightened state of happiness or mood without the limitations and controls of a laboratory environment. More than 1,200 individuals were included in the study, all of whom attended multi-day music and culture festivals in the US and UK. Researchers set up booths at these events, and offered participants prized (like glow sticks!) in exchange for information about recent psychedelic use and their mood.
Participants were asked whether they were under the influence at that time, had taken a psychoactive drug within the last 24 hours or the week prior. Participants filled out several questionnaires, and then were assessed for social connectedness and positive mood. To assess social connectedness, participants were asked to choose one of seven images to describe their relationship to human beings in general.
Each of the seven images included two equal-sized circles overlapping by varying degrees. One one end of the scale, the circles were separate, on the other, they were almost overlapped. One circle was labeled “self” and the other “other”. Participants that had a recent experience with psychedelics indicated heightened social connectedness, choosing the images that expressed more relatedness to other human beings regardless of whether they had consumed other substances.
This news will come as no surprise to people that have already had powerful experiences using psychoactive drugs. Psychedelics have even been shown to increase nature relatedness, making people feel more connected and at one with the world around them.