Not just a flash in the pan

Fourteen months later, participants in the Hopkins study of psilocybin and spiritual experience are still reporting benefits.

Fourteen months after receiving a single dose of psilocybin in a Johns Hopkins University laboratory, more than six out of ten of the participants report lasting benefit in the form of an increased sense of well-being and improved behavior. Two-thirds recall the experience as one of the five most meaningful in their entire lives.


(1) A good chance of experiencing a full-blown mystical experience is available for a few hours’ preparation and a day’s supervised exposure to the active agent in mushrooms that grow wild in many parts of the country; and

(2) Having such an experience has a good chance of generating lasting benefits and

(3) supervised exposure by screened participants is physically and psychologically safe;

then the case for keeping that process illicit by forbidding possession of the mushrooms seems hard to make out. And making what is undoubtedly a religious experience unavailable by law does not seem to fit well with either the Free Exercise Clause or the international human-rights treaties.

Links to the follow-up and the original paper are available on the website of the Council on Spiritual Practices. The same research team is now recruiting volunteers for a study of whether such experiences can relieve anxiety in cancer patients.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: