Psychedelics — those who have tried them have a hard time describing what they’re like, and those who haven’t tried them have no idea what they’re missing. Or something like that. Proponents have long described a type of higher consciousness that accompanies drugs like LSD and magic mushrooms, and now a new study have found evidence that this is true. Volunteers who took psychedelics were discovered to experience a higher state of consciousness…but not in the way you’re probably thinking.
When experienced users describe a higher state of consciousness, they’re often describing a quasi-religious experience or, at least, using religious terminology to suggest a mystical aspect to the experience. There’s no discounting those experiences, of course, but this study’s use of ‘higher consciousness’ doesn’t quite mean the same thing — rather, it points toward a greater degree of brain activity taking place after consuming the drug than when in a normal, sober state.
The work was recently conducted by researchers with London’s University of Sussex and Imperial College, where volunteers were given doses of either placebo or psychedelic drugs like psilocybin (‘magic mushrooms’), LSD, or ketamine. Their brains were scanned about an hour after dosage, and researchers were able to observe an increase in brain activity, one were the neural activity becomes less predictable and therefore indicates a greater degree of consciousness.
This is compared to states of reduced degrees of consciousness, such as putting a person under with anesthesia, which shows more predictable activity on brain scans. This isn’t a surprise to researchers, but is the first instance that such ‘higher consciousness’ from psychedelics has been confirmed by a study. Increased activity is observed in parts of the brain that deal with perception, but the finer implications of these changes still aren’t known at this time.