Magic mushrooms and personality change

A person's personality can be significantly altered via a single high dose of the hallucinogen psilocybin - an ingredient found in magic mushrooms. This is according to new findings from researchers at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine, who said such a small amount was enough to bring a measurable change in a person.

According to the study, one high dose would last at least a year in nearly 60 per cent of the 51 participants who took part in the investigation.

The team discovered the personality trait affected by the drug is known as openness - which relates to characteristics regarding feelings, aesthetics, imagination, general broad-mindedness and abstract ideas.

Results of the report have been published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, but study leader Roland Griffiths, a Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences at the institution - opened in 1893 - added, however: "We don't know whether the findings can be generalised to the larger population."

Dr Philip Murphy, Reader in Psychology at Edge Hill University, Liverpool, and a Chartered Psychologist, commented: "It should be remembered that using hallucinogenic drugs can be dangerous with regard to a person's mental health.

"The participants in this study were given a very carefully controlled dose of psilocybin and were in a position to be monitored whilst under its influence. 

"This study should not be used to justify the use of hallucinogenic drugs by private individuals on their own. The authors rightly point out characteristics of their sample which might have predisposed them to certain effects of the drug in relation to openness to experiences, so that assumptions should not be made that psilocybin may have similar effects on the population in general. 

"Finally, it should be remembered that value judgements about the desirability of behaviours and experiences associated with any personality trait can only be made reliably in relation to the demands of specific situations. What is desirable in one situation may not be desirable in another."