A common refrain of people emerging from hallucinatory highs, whether LSD, mescaline or peyote, is that consciousness-altering psychedelic drugs can make one more attuned to the natural world. But does that psychedelicized sense of the connectedness of all things persist once the high has faded?
A recent study from the Journal of Psychopharmacology suggests it does. In the study, psychologists from Yale University and the University of Innsbruck asked 1,487 about their psychedelic experiences and their self-reported environmentalist behaviors and affiliation for things "green." The researchers also sought to identify common personality traits associated with drug use or relating to nature, such as openness to experience, conscientiousness and conservatism.
The researchers found that people who had used psychedelic drugs reported more environmentally friendly behaviors, such as recycling and reducing their carbon footprint. Many also reported a greater sense of oneness with nature. They also found that the more psychedelics used, the greater the sense of connectedness, and the greater the reported pro-environmental activities.
"The more people had experience with classic psychedelics, the more they enjoyed spending time in nature, and the more they construed their self as being a part of nature," the study authors wrote.
The study reports only a correlation between psychedelic use and respect for the environment, leaving open the question of causation. It could be that people who are strongly environmentally conscious are more open to using drugs. But the researchers don't think so. They reported that the association is only reported with psychedelics, not other drugs such as alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, or other illegal substances. And they hinted that "there is strong reason to believe that psychedelic substances increase nature relatedness as a function of their ego-dissolving effects."
Naturally, the researchers found a need for more studies about the role of psychedelics in nature-relatedness and pro-environmental behavior, for the sake of both humans and the earth.
"Identifying factors that contribute to this process is therefore an important scientific endeavor — for individual wellbeing as well as for our planet’s future," the study concluded.