Psychedelics may lessen fear of death and dying, similar to feelings reported by those who’ve had near death experiences

In a survey study of more than 3,000 adults, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers compared psychedelic experiences with near-death experiences that were not drug related and found notable similarities in people’s attitudes toward death. Survey participants in both groups reported having less fear of death and dying after the experience. They also reported that the experience had a lasting positive effect, providing personal meaning, spiritual significance and psychological insight.

The study was published Aug. 24, 2022 in the journal PLOS ONE.

The results are consistent with several recent clinical trials showing that a single treatment with the psychedelic psilocybin produced sustained decreases in anxiety and depression among patients with a life-threatening cancer diagnosis. The largest of these trials (Griffiths et al., 2016) was conducted at Johns Hopkins Medicine by the authors of this survey.

The researchers say that future studies are needed to better understand the potential clinical use of psychedelics in ameliorating suffering related to fear of death.

Materials provided by Johns Hopkins Medicine.

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