Rationale: Previous research suggests that classical psychedelic compounds can induce lasting changes in personality traits, attitudes and beliefs in both healthy subjects and patient populations.
Aim: Here we sought to investigate the effects of psilocybin on nature relatedness and libertarian-authoritarian political perspective in patients with treatment-resistant depression (TRD).
Methods: This open-label pilot study with a mixed-model design studied the effects of psilocybin on measures of nature relatedness and libertarian-authoritarian political perspective in patients with moderate to severe TRD ( n=7) versus age-matched non-treated healthy control subjects ( n=7). Psilocybin was administered in two oral dosing sessions (10 mg and 25 mg) 1 week apart. Main outcome measures were collected 1 week and 7-12 months after the second dosing session. Nature relatedness and libertarian-authoritarian political perspective were assessed using the Nature Relatedness Scale (NR-6) and Political Perspective Questionnaire (PPQ-5), respectively.
Results: Nature relatedness significantly increased ( t(6)=-4.242, p=0.003) and authoritarianism significantly decreased ( t(6)=2.120, p=0.039) for the patients 1 week after the dosing sessions. At 7-12 months post-dosing, nature relatedness remained significantly increased ( t(5)=-2.707, p=0.021) and authoritarianism remained decreased at trend level ( t(5)=-1.811, p=0.065). No differences were found on either measure for the non-treated healthy control subjects.
Conclusions: This pilot study suggests that psilocybin with psychological support might produce lasting changes in attitudes and beliefs. Although it would be premature to infer causality from this small study, the possibility of drug-induced changes in belief systems seems sufficiently intriguing and timely to deserve further investigation.
Keywords: Psilocybin; authoritarianism; depression; nature relatedness; political perspective.