A new experimental research program has provided the first evidence that psilocybin, the psychoactive compound found in hallucinogenic mushrooms, might decrease authoritarian views.
“Magic” mushrooms have become inextricably linked to the nature-loving, political counterculture that often seeks them out. But what if psilocybin was actually what led people to exhibit those traits, rather than the other way around?
Scientists from the Psychedelic Research Group at Imperial College London conducted a study using seven participants with treatment-resistant depression, which refers to chronic depression that doesn’t respond to therapy or medication, or most likely a combination of the two.
The psilocybin group experienced a significant reduction in authoritarian leanings, with noticeable changes holding up even at the seven- to 12-month mark. The control group exhibited no such change. “These results suggest that psilocybin therapy may persistently decrease authoritarian attitudes post-treatment with psilocybin,” the team wrote in a new paper describing their research, which was published in the scientific journal Psychopharmacology.
There are substantial caveats to this study, the first being its sample size—seven people is an unusually small number for this sort of thing. Another is that it’s possible the reduction in depression the participants reported is what caused any ideological changes.