Human cognition remains one of the great mysteries in science. A recent research paper in Scientific Reports v 13 entitled “Alternative Beliefs among Psychedelic Drug Users” explores this area by investigating how psychedelic drugs not only alter mental health but also shape users’ belief systems. Led by Alexander V. Lebedev and a team of distinguished researchers, this investigation explores often controversial terrain like nonconformist beliefs and drug usage
This research investigated the relationship between patterns of drug use and beliefs held by users, specifically LSD, Psilocybin, and DMT users. Specifically this paper set out to uncover:
Which psychoactive substances and the amounts consumed have an impact on relying on intuition when making factual assessments and when creating beliefs.
Which drugs impact this need for empirical evidence when creating beliefs. Do users of psychedelics perceive facts as being politically biased when making judgments?
The study took into account not only psychedelics but also alcohol and stimulant drugs to gain an in-depth knowledge of how their effects correlate with epistemic beliefs.
This study included 392 participants, of whom 233 reported having used psychedelics at least once in their lifetimes. Researchers discovered a moderate positive association between psychedelic use and acceptance of alternative facts as well as increased political bias regarding facts; users also showed greater likelihood in believing their decisions are biased by politics than those not using these substances. Also notable: no link existed that suggested intuition over empirical evidence when verifying facts.
Alcohol was significantly negatively associated with beliefs in alternative facts. This may reflect its documented link to prosocial behaviors; however, caution must be exercised in interpreting this finding.
Psychological Traits and Drug Use
Researchers also explored the relationship between drug use patterns and various personality and psychopathological traits, particularly alcohol and opiates use patterns, and various personality and psychopathological traits such as openness. All studied drugs except alcohol and opiates were positively associated with higher scores on openness; furthermore, certain aspects of schizotypy–an umbrella term often linked with schizophrenia–were found to correlate positively with beliefs in alternative facts.
Non-Conformity and Society
Most participants in this study were healthy adults. It’s important to keep in mind that scoring highly on measures like the Conspiracy Mentality Questionnaire (CMQ) does not indicate pathological thinking – they could simply reflect an existing spectrum of nonconformist mentalities influenced by society factors like leaks of NSA files or ongoing concerns over online privacy.
Interpretations and Implications
This research offers two possible explanations for its results:
Before using, those inclined toward alternative beliefs might be more drawn to psychedelics regardless of any potential drug’s influence. After-Effect of Use: Psychotropic drugs could encourage more openness toward alternative beliefs among their users.
Furthermore, this study cautions that its findings should not be used as justification for restrictive drug policies. Alienation and social ostracization can create more intense conspiratorial beliefs.
Limitations and Future Research
Although groundbreaking, this study does have its limitations. Primarily, self-reporting was heavily relied upon, which can introduce bias and inaccuracy into data collected. Secondarily, its focus mainly was limited to Swedish population which limited its generalizability across multiple cultural contexts.
Lebedev and his team’s research provides an initial step in understanding the complex relationships between drug use and beliefs systems. While many questions still remain unanswered, it highlights their significance by advocating for multidisciplinary study of these relationships.
While psychedelics might not necessarily encourage people to believe in far-flung conspiracies, they do seem to encourage some degree of nonconformity and skepticism toward mainstream narratives. Whether or not this is seen as beneficial can only be determined through further analysis; nonetheless it’s clear that understanding this relationship could yield valuable results.