A new study has found that psychedelic users have a stronger connection to nature and a greater awareness of their impact on climate change, both qualities associated with environmental consciousness.
The study’s authors say this could be because psychedelics help people become more aware of the interconnectedness of all living things. Furthermore, it suggests that psychedelics could be used to help people become more environmentally responsible.
Let’s dive into what the research says about these promising new findings and how they might advance the field of psychedelic research.
What Are Psychedelics?
Psychedelics are a group of substances that produce powerful changes in perception, mood, and thought. The most well-known psychedelics include psilocybin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), mescaline, and dimethyltryptamine (DMT). These substances are often used for recreational purposes but can also have profound therapeutic effects.
How Do Psychedelics Work?
Psychedelics are thought to work by binding to serotonin receptors in the brain, causing changes in neural activity. This can interrupt the usual flow of thoughts, resulting in a dreamlike state or mystical experience. Psychedelics can also cause hallucinations, out-of-body experiences, and other changes in perception. Some research suggests that these substances could be used to treat mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. Psychedelics, however, will require further research to better understand their potential risks and benefits.
Users Connect With Nature Increasingly After Taking Psychedelics
Researchers have taken a big step in understanding the connection between using psychedelics and feeling connected to nature in a study published in the journal Drug Science, Policy, and Law on Oct. 2, 2022. Study findings indicated that those who had previously taken LSD and psilocybin reported a greater sense of “nature relatedness.” This defines one’s ability to connect to the natural world and identify nature as an essential part of life. As a result, they possess more insight into climate change than individuals who don’t use psychedelics.
Researchers recruited 641 participants from Western Europe and America via Facebook groups, university mailing lists, and social media forums. The participants completed a survey asking about lifetime experiences with:
- Psychedelics (LSD, psilocybin, DMT, mescaline)
- Opiates (heroin, codeine)
Additionally, they answered questions regarding “nature relatedness” as well as a quiz assessment on their climate change knowledge and concerns. Researchers hypothesized that people who use psychedelics tend to be less worried. According to their theory, psychedelic users tend to score highly on emotional stability tests, suggesting that psychedelics might enhance emotional well-being and reduce worry.
New Study Focuses on Objective Assessment of Climate Crisis
Although previous studies also show a more profound sense of connection to nature among psychedelic users, one drawback, however, has been that those studies typically raised questions about legitimacy. The subjective nature of self-reported data can plague research. Plus, confirmation bias, or the tendency for participants to respond in ways that may not be true about themselves (but should be) can skew results.
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To combat this, researchers of this new study quizzed participants in an actual, knowledge-based test. They asked objective questions, comparing climate to weather, greenhouse gas types, and the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere. The study concluded psilocybin and/or LSD users scored highest in both “nature relatedness” and the quiz-related climate change knowledge. Based on the analysis, “a sense of connection to nature” after taking psychedelics appeared to inspire people to learn about climate change.
Despite these promising findings, there are limitations to this study, including its correlational nature. There is criticism that in assessing climate change and attitudes about “nature relatedness,” knowledge about the climate change crisis and environmental concerns don’t always translate into meaningful action.
Nevertheless, researchers say the study offers hope. It may be possible to determine how psychedelics enhance the human connection to the natural world as a way to combat climate change.
Scientists Hope New Findings Will Help Expand Research on Psychedelic Therapy
The study’s lead authors, Christina Sagioglou and Matthias Forstman, conclude their study by acknowledging that psychedelics are illegal in most countries, making research difficult. While it is true that psychedelics are still illegal in the United States under federal law, local and state decriminalization efforts have increased in recent years, and researchers have begun investigating their therapeutic properties.
In light of this, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has announced its intention to substantially increase the production quota of psychedelics such as LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline due to be studied in 2023.
It’s excellent news, particularly since new research suggests psilocybin deserves further investigation. In an August 2022 study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), psilocybin appears to be an effective tool for reducing problematic alcohol consumption. In addition, another 2022 study published in Scientific Reports found that the therapeutic use of various psychedelics like psilocybin, mescaline, LSD, and DMT significantly reduced illicit opioid use.
The results of these studies are precisely what has led to recent trends of young adults engaging in psychedelic experimentation, especially as the laws surrounding such substances become less restrictive. No matter the case, this study’s implications can positively shape attitudes about psychedelics in the future, along with future prosocial behavior and climate change efforts.
The Bottom Line
Perhaps psychedelics are good for the planet after all. The new study is small and does not definitively prove that psychedelics make people more environmentally conscious. However, it does suggest a strong association between the two. And although most countries criminalize psychedelic use, gaining insight into how they work could contribute to the development of alternative treatments. Using psychedelics could help people become more aware of their impact on the environment and push them to take steps to mitigate it.
Note: Veriheal does not support illegally consuming therapeutic substances such as psychedelics but acknowledges that it transpires because of the current illicit status, which we strive to change by advocating for research, legal access, and responsible consumption. Always consult a physician before attempting alternative therapies.