User perceptions of mental health consequences of hallucinogen use in self-identified spiritual contexts

  • Johnstad P
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Abstract

AIMS-The article aims to gain insight into the private worlds of users of hallucinogenic drugs in spiritual contexts, with a focus on the self-perceived mental health implications of their practices. This will help us understand the rationale behind and consequences of hallucinogenic drug use. METHOD-Respondents were recruited at several internet fora for individual email-mediated interviews (n = 5) or group interviews in public discussion threads (n = 11). They were predominantly males in their 30s or 40s with stable jobs and living conditions and extensive hallucinogen experience. RESULTS-Both positive and adverse consequences were assessed, and respondents emphasised the capacity of hallucinogenic drugs for healing and personal growth; even adverse experiences ("bad trips") were regarded as valuable for these purposes. The dependence potential of these drugs was regarded as low because of an inherent self-regulatory mechanism whereby positive effects disappear with overuse. A minority of participants reported mental health problems that may result from their hallucinogen use, but the majority have experienced no significant adverse reactions after many years of use. This should be seen in light of the low frequency of their hallucinogen use. CONCLUSION-The study obtained evidence of a predominantly male group of mature users taking hallucinogens in carefully prepared sessions for the purpose of personal spiritual growth, acknowledging some risks but also several benefits from this practice. © 2015 Petter Grahl Johnstad, published by De Gruyter Open.

Author-supplied keywords

  • adverse effects
  • dependence
  • hallucinogens
  • interview
  • psychedelics
  • qualitative
  • spirituality

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Authors

  • Petter Grahl Johnstad

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