Improve Acceptance with Mindfulness Training or a Psychedelic Drug

Improve Acceptance with Mindfulness Training or a Psychedelic Drug

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“If someone gives you 100 micrograms of acid something is going to happen. Two hours later the significance of your existence will have just been borne down on you like an avalanche. And again this can be terrifying or it can be absolutely sublime depending on various causes and conditions. But the one thing it cannot be is boring. And that is you can’t say that about yoga or meditation or just going into solitude or anything else that – any other, you know, non-pharmacological means of inquiry.” – Big Think

 

Psychedelic substances such as peyote, mescaline, LSD, ayahuasca and psilocybin  have been used almost since the beginning of recorded history to alter consciousness and produce spiritually meaningful experiences. A substantial number of Brazilian religious groups ingest the natural psychedelic substance ayahuasca on a regular basis for ritual purposes. These groups, like many users of psychedelic substances, employ them to develop spirituality and self-transcendence.

 

Psychedelics produce effects that are similar to those that are reported in spiritual awakenings. They report a loss of the personal self, a decentering. They experience what they used to refer to as the self as just a part of an integrated whole. They report feeling interconnected with everything else in a sense of oneness with all things. They experience a feeling of timelessness where time seems to stop and everything is taking place in a single present moment. They experience ineffability, being unable to express in words what they are experiencing and as a result sometimes producing paradoxical statements. And they experience a positive mood, with renewed energy and enthusiasm.

 

It is easy to see why people find these experiences so pleasant and eye opening. They often report that the experiences changed them forever. Even though the effects of psychedelic substances have been experienced and reported on for centuries, only very recently have these effects come under rigorous scientific scrutiny.  In today’s Research News article “Four Weekly Ayahuasca Sessions Lead to Increases in “Acceptance” Capacities: A Comparison Study With a Standard 8-Week Mindfulness Training Program.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5869920/ ), Soler and colleagues compare the ability of the psychedelic drug ayahuasca and mindfulness training to change the mindfulness of volunteers.

 

They formed two matched groups from the volunteers, based upon levels of decentering. One group were provided a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. The MBSR program was presented for 2.5 hours, once a week, for 8 weeks with 30-minute daily home practice. It consisted of discussion and meditation, body scan, and yoga practices. The second group of volunteers received 4 weekly 6-8-hour ayahuasca sessions. They were measured before and after treatment for decentering and mindfulness, including the mindfulness facets of observing, describing, non-reacting, non-judging, and acting with awareness.

 

They found that following the MBSR program there were significant increases in decentering and all 5 mindfulness facets. On the other hand, after ayahuasca treatment there was a significant increase only in the non-judging mindfulness facet. Hence, the MBSR program produced the routinely observed improvements in mindfulness and decentering, while ayahuasca treatments only altered “acceptance” (non-judging facet of mindfulness).

 

It is very interesting and perhaps puzzling that ayahuasca treatment did not increase decentering. Decentering changes the nature of experience by having the individual step outside of experiences and observe them from a distanced perspective and be aware of their impermanent nature. This is exactly the type of perspective that is promoted by experiences with psychedelic drugs. The fact that it was not increased with the ayahuasca treatments calls into question the effectiveness of the treatments and dosing used in the current study.

 

Nevertheless the ayahuasca treatments did produce increases in acceptance. This suggests that some of the therapeutic benefits of ayahuasca treatments may be due to changes in mindfulness which, in turn, produce physical and psychological benefits. It will remain for future research to continue to explore the means by which such psychedelic treatments alter the psychological landscape of the individual. It is clear, though, in the current study that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a potent facilitator of all facets of mindfulness and decentering.

 

So, improve acceptance with mindfulness training or a psychedelic drug.

 

“Meditating can be hard, lonely work, but if recent research is to be believed there may be a quick-and-dirty shortcut to enlightenment: psychedelic drugs. According to an exploratory study, drinking the hallucinogenic brew ayahuasca can bring about improvements in mindfulness that would take years of dedicated meditation to achieve. The research found that ayahuasca raised mindfulness abilities to levels equal to or even greater than those of people who have been practising meditation for around seven years.” – Plastic Brain

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Soler, J., Elices, M., Dominguez-Clavé, E., Pascual, J. C., Feilding, A., Navarro-Gil, M., … Riba, J. (2018). Four Weekly Ayahuasca Sessions Lead to Increases in “Acceptance” Capacities: A Comparison Study With a Standard 8-Week Mindfulness Training Program. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 9, 224. http://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2018.00224

 

Abstract

Background: The therapeutic effects of the Amazonian plant tea ayahuasca may relate to its ability to enhance mindfulness capacities. Ayahuasca induces a modified state of awareness through the combined action of its active principles: the psychedelic N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and a series of centrally acting β-carbolines, mainly harmine and tetrahydroharmine. To better understand the therapeutic potential of ayahuasca, here we compared the impact on mindfulness capacities induced by two independent interventions: (a) participation in four ayahuasca sessions without any specific purpose related to improving mindfulness capacities; and (b) participation in a standard mindfulness training course: 8 weeks mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), with the specific goal of improving these skills.

Methods: Participants of two independent groups completed two self-report instruments: The Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) and the Experiences Questionnaire (EQ). The MINDSENS Composite Index was also calculated, including those EQ and FFMQ items that have proven to be the most sensitive to meditation practice. Group A (n = 10) was assessed before and after the last of four closely spaced consecutive ayahuasca sessions. Group B (n = 10) was assessed before and after completion of a standard 8-week MBSR course.

Results: MBSR training led to greater increases in overall mindfulness scores after the 8-week period. MBSR but not ayahuasca led to increases in the MINDSENS Composite Index. However, the ayahuasca sessions induced comparable increases in the Non-Judging subscale of the FFMQ, specifically measuring “acceptance.” Improving this capacity allows for a more detached and less judgmental stance toward potentially distressing thoughts and emotions.

Results: The present findings suggest that a small number of ayahuasca sessions can be as effective at improving acceptance as more lengthy and costly interventions. Future studies should address the benefits of combining ayahuasca administration with mindfulness-based interventions. This will allow us to investigate if ayahuasca will improve the outcome of psychotherapeutic interventions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5869920/

 

Psilocybin in Combination with Meditation Practice Improves Psychological Functioning

Psilocybin in Combination with Meditation Practice Improves Psychological Functioning

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“The ingestion of psilocybin, brought on “mystical” experiences that reduced illness-related anxiety and depression in nearly 80 percent of subjects studied in research trials.” – Andrew McCarron

 

Psychedelic substances have been used almost since the beginning of recorded history to alter consciousness and produce spiritually meaningful experiences. Psychedelics produce effects that are similar to those that are reported in spiritual awakenings. They report a loss of the personal self. They experience what they used to refer to as the self as just a part of an integrated whole. They report feeling interconnected with everything else in a sense of oneness with all things. They experience a feeling of timelessness where time seems to stop and everything is taking place in a single present moment. They experience ineffability, being unable to express in words what they are experiencing and as a result sometimes producing paradoxical statements. And they experience a positive mood, with renewed energy and enthusiasm.

 

It is easy to see why people find these experiences so pleasant and eye opening. They often report that the experiences changed them forever. Even though the effects of psychedelic substances have been experienced and reported on for centuries, only very recently have these effects come under rigorous scientific scrutiny.

 

Psilocybin is a psychedelic substance that is found naturally in a number of varieties of mushrooms. It has been used for centuries particularly by Native Americans for their spiritual practices. When studied in the laboratory under double blind conditions, Psilocybin has been shown to “reliably occasion deeply personally meaningful and often spiritually significant experiences (e.g. mystical-type experiences).” How lasting the changes are has not been systematically studied in controlled research studies.

 

In today’s Research News article “Psilocybin-occasioned mystical-type experience in combination with meditation and other spiritual practices produces enduring positive changes in psychological functioning and in trait measures of prosocial attitudes and behaviors.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5772431/ ), Griffiths and colleagues examine the duration of Psilocybin effects when administered under laboratory conditions. They recruited participants from the community who were not experienced with either psychedelics or meditation and randomly assigned to one of three groups; very low Psilocybin dose – standard spiritual support, high Psilocybin dose – standard spiritual support, or high Psilocybin dose – high spiritual support. Participants and researchers who interacted with them were not informed as to the dosing conditions.

 

Psilocybin was administered in capsule form in the morning and the participants remained in the laboratory and were measured until Psilocybin immediate effects were gone 7 hours later. One month later the participants returned for a second similar Psilocybin session. For the standard support conditions, the participants met with “guides” for five 1 to 2-hour sessions and a couple of days after Psilocybin administration for another 1-hour session, followed up later with a 10-minute teleconference. Sessions consisted of instruction and support for their usual spiritual practices. For the high support conditions, participants met on a similar schedule and dad additional sessions approximately monthly thereafter. The “spiritual practice suggestions had three primary elements: meditation (10 to 30 minutes of sitting meditation daily); daily awareness practice (use of mantra and one-pointed attention in daily activities); and daily self-reflective journaling of insights, benefits, and challenges of spiritual practice in daily life.”

 

They found that the high Psilocybin dose administration during the 7-hour post-administration period produced hallucinations and illusions, feelings of transcendence, grief, joy, and/or anxiety, and a sense of meaning and insight. These effects were significantly greater in the high spiritual support group. At the 6-month follow up they found that the high Psilocybin dose group in comparison the very low dose group had significantly improves attitudes about life and self, improved mood, increased altruism and spirituality, and significantly greater personal meaning, spiritual significance, and change in well-being. Again, in the high spiritual support group had significantly greater effects. Virtually all of the participants in the high Psilocybin dose conditions reported that this was among the greatest spiritual experiences of their lives.

 

These results are striking and important. Administration of the psychedelic substance, Psilocybin, produced consistently positive personal and spiritual effects immediately and the effects appeared to be relatively permanent, still present after 6 months. In addition, engaging in spiritual meditative practices appeared to heighten these effects. The use of psychedelic substances is extremely controversial and for the most part illegal. But, the present findings suggest that at least under controlled circumstances, they may have positive and lasting, effects on the individual and their spirituality. Further research should explore the use of Psilocybin for the treatment of mental illness and the promotion of human well-being.

 

So, psilocybin in combination with meditation practice improves psychological functioning.

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Roland R Griffiths, Matthew W Johnson, William A Richards, Brian D Richards, Robert Jesse, Katherine A MacLean, Frederick S Barrett, Mary P Cosimano, Maggie A Klinedinst. Psilocybin-occasioned mystical-type experience in combination with meditation and other spiritual practices produces enduring positive changes in psychological functioning and in trait measures of prosocial attitudes and behaviors. J Psychopharmacol. 2018 Jan; 32(1): 49–69. Published online 2017 Oct 11. doi: 10.1177/0269881117731279

 

Abstract

Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences with participant-attributed increases in well-being. However, little research has examined enduring changes in traits. This study administered psilocybin to participants who undertook a program of meditation/spiritual practices. Healthy participants were randomized to three groups (25 each): (1) very low-dose (1 mg/70 kg on sessions 1 and 2) with moderate-level (“standard”) support for spiritual-practice (LD-SS); (2) high-dose (20 and 30 mg/70 kg on sessions 1 and 2, respectively) with standard support (HD-SS); and (3) high-dose (20 and 30 mg/70kg on sessions 1 and 2, respectively) with high support for spiritual practice (HD-HS). Psilocybin was administered double-blind and instructions to participants/staff minimized expectancy confounds. Psilocybin was administered 1 and 2 months after spiritual-practice initiation. Outcomes at 6 months included rates of spiritual practice and persisting effects of psilocybin. Compared with low-dose, high-dose psilocybin produced greater acute and persisting effects. At 6 months, compared with LD-SS, both high-dose groups showed large significant positive changes on longitudinal measures of interpersonal closeness, gratitude, life meaning/purpose, forgiveness, death transcendence, daily spiritual experiences, religious faith and coping, and community observer ratings. Determinants of enduring effects were psilocybin-occasioned mystical-type experience and rates of meditation/spiritual practices. Psilocybin can occasion enduring trait-level increases in prosocial attitudes/behaviors and in healthy psychological functioning.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5772431/