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Reported effects of psychedelic use on those with low well-being given various emotional states and social contexts

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Natasha L Mason, Patrick C Dolder, Kim PC Kuypers


January 30, 2020

Background It has been suggested that the outcome of the psychedelic experience is dependent on set and setting. While scientific research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics is growing, it is clear that in clinical populations an optimal set and setting will not always be attainable. It was aimed to assess under which emotional and environmental circumstances psychedelic users use psychedelics, and the outcome of use given clinical characteristics, defined as low well-being and higher rates of neuroticism.

Methods Online respondents (N = 1967) provided information about their psychedelic use, environment they consume the substance in (setting), and mood state pre/post-substance (set). Based on subjective mental well-being, respondents were separated into two groups, those with low (N = 643), and those with normal well-being (N = 1324). Personality traits, with a particular focus on neuroticism, were also assessed.

Results Findings showed that psychedelics such as lysergic acid diethylamide and psilocybin were most commonly used at home and methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) in a party/festival setting. In most instances, all substances were used when individuals were in a positive mood, and this remained in general positive, or, when not initially positive, shifted to positive, after use. Individuals with low well-being were more likely to experience a positive mood change after use of lysergic acid diethylamide, psilocybin or MDMA than individuals with normal well-being. Furthermore, as neuroticism scores increased, so did likelihood of positive mood change, as well as likelihood of experiencing negative side effects.

Conclusion It is demonstrated that psychedelics are used in varying emotional states and environmental settings. Importantly in the light of future clinical studies with patients, individuals with low psychological well-being and higher scores of neuroticism report consuming such substances with positive outcomes.

This research was published in the Drug Science, Policy and Law Journal the definitive source of evidence-based information and comment for academics, scientists, policymakers, frontline workers and the general public on drugs and related issues

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