Listen: The playlist scientists used to unlock 'elevated states of consciousness' in people tripping on 'magic' mushrooms for a research study
Psychedelicsresearchers created a playlist that runs nearly 7 hours long to guide study participants as they trip on psilocybin, the psychedelic found in "magic" mushrooms.
- The playlist starts with slow and steady classical
music. A few hours in, when a person is reaching the climax of their trip, it switches to more solemn and hypnotic-sounding tracks.
- The playlist ends with "Here Comes The Sun" by The Beatles to bring study participants out of their trips on a positive and calm note.
Psychedelic drug researchers at Johns Hopkins carefully curated a seven-hour-long playlist to help participants in their most recent study have the trips of their lives.
The study looked at how psilocybin, the psychedelic compound in "magic" mushrooms, could reduce depression symptoms.
And, as a gift that we can all reap the benefits from, the researchers uploaded the playlist to Spotify so anyone can enjoy the tailor-made mix of instrumental tunes.
It was the first randomized controlled trial to look at how psilocybin administered in a clinical setting could affect people with long-term, clinically diagnosed depression. They found psilocybin to be four times as effective as traditional anti-depressant medications for treating depression.
The researchers studied 24 people who had depression for an average of 21.5 years and found, after two facilitator-assisted psilocybin trips and post-trip debrief sessions, that 67% of them reported more than a 50% decrease in depression symptoms after the first drug-trip session. After the second session, 71% of the participants said they noticed a 50% decrease in symptoms.
After seeing patients four weeks following the experiment, 54% of them had no depression symptoms and were considered "in remission."
Guiding people to an 'elevated state of consciousness' with music
During the psilocybin sessions, each study subject lay on a couch while wearing eye shades and listening to the curated playlist through headphones. This method is common in psychedelic drug trips in clinical settings, since previous research dating back as far as 1964 has found the environment or "setting," as researchers refer to it, in which a person trips has a major influence on their experience.
Bill Richards, who has studied psychedelics since 1963, created the playlist in 1967 and it's since transformed as other researchers have added and swapped tracks to use for their own studies. In a blog post about the music-selection process, he said soothing and predictable music with "some substance" acts as a "nonverbal support system" for a person on a psychedelic journey.
The mixture of classical, Spanish guitar, and non-Western classical music in the playlist is meant to complement the emotions a person tripping will go through over their nearly six-hour session.
"The music chromatically develops, and it goes up and reaches this exquisite climax and then comes back down," Richards said.
For example, the calm first track "Concerto F0r 2 Mandolines" helps study participants get into the right head space. Around the time they reach the peak of their trip session a few hours in, they'll hear Samuel Barber's classical hit "Adagio for Strings," which has been described as both hypnotic and solemn. And during the trip come-down, they'll here the more hopeful and upbeat "Here Comes the Sun" by The Beatles.
According to Richards, the music has moved his study participants decade after decade, to the point they seek and download the tunes to their personal collections.
"It spoke [to them]. It took on meaning in the struggle, the unfolding, the dissonance being resolved. They could understand that that type of classical music is a language about life and human experience. And when you're in the music, it's so different from listening to the music," Richards said in the blog post.
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