Belief changes associated with psychedelic use

J Psychopharmacol. 2023 Jan;37(1):80-92. doi: 10.1177/02698811221131989. Epub 2022 Nov 1.


Background: Psychedelic use is anecdotally associated with belief changes, although few studies have tested these claims.

Aim: Characterize a broad range of psychedelic occasioned belief changes.

Survey: A survey was conducted in 2374 respondents who endorsed having had a belief changing psychedelic experience. Participants rated their agreement with belief statements Before and After the psychedelic experience as well as at the time of survey administration.

Results: Factor analysis of 45 belief statements revealed five factors: "Dualism," "Paranormal/Spirituality," "Non-mammal consciousness," "Mammal consciousness," and "Superstition." Medium to large effect sizes from Before to After the experience were observed for increases in beliefs in "Dualism" (β = 0.72), "Paranormal/Spirituality" (β = 0.90), "Non-mammal consciousness" (β = 0.72), and "Mammal consciousness" (β = 0.74). In contrast, negligible changes were observed for "Superstition" (β = -0.18).). At the individual item level, increases in non-physicalist beliefs included belief in reincarnation, communication with the dead, existence of consciousness after death, telepathy, and consciousness of inanimate natural objects (e.g., rocks). The percentage of participants who identified as a "Believer (e.g., in Ultimate Reality, Higher Power, and/or God, etc.)" increased from 29% Before to 59% After." At both the factor and individual item level, higher ratings of mystical experience were associated with greater changes in beliefs. Belief changes assessed after the experience (an average 8.4 years) remained largely unchanged at the time of survey.

Conclusions: A single psychedelic experience increased a range of non-physicalist beliefs as well as beliefs about consciousness, meaning, and purpose. Further, the magnitude of belief change is associated with qualitative features of the experience.

Keywords: 5-HT2A receptor agonist; Psychedelics; beliefs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Consciousness
  • Hallucinogens* / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Spiritual Therapies*
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome* / drug therapy
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Hallucinogens