Obtaining Psychedelic Effects Possible Through Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality Effects

Summary: Psychedelics like magic mushrooms or LSD produce a unique experience. They are hallucinogenic. They are known to help with many health conditions like depression and other issues. However, there are safety concerns regarding their clinical use. Researchers in the new study found that VR technology can provide a similar kind of self-transcendent experience in a safe and more controlled manner.

In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in psychedelics like magic mushrooms or LSD. Though these are substances of abuse, it appears they might also help manage various health conditions when used under medical supervision.

Psychedelics are especially good for managing mental health disorders like depression. They might also boost mental abilities. Additionally, psychedelic experience may be beneficial even in some physical health disorders.

However, using psychedelics in clinical practice is challenging, and chances are slim that they would find wider use. These are highly controlled substances. Not only that but carrying out psychedelic therapy is also quite challenging. Additionally, once the psychedelic experience begins, a therapist has little control over it. It means that psychedelics do not work as expected in many instances.

Nonetheless, these limitations of psychedelics do not mean neglecting their benefits. Science just needs to find a safe way to induce a similar mental state. There could be many ways of doing so, like creating safer psychedelics. However, now researchers think that VR technology may be a much better way of safely inducing psychedelic-like effects.

Studies suggest that during a psychedelic experience, few things occur. They say this experience is similar to those reported by some post-stroke patients. In the state, one cannot clearly define the boundaries of the body. One loses the sensation of where the body begins and where it ends. However, this also provides strange kinds of sensations like arms and legs merging with the wall, and so on. It reduces egoic identity, and one descends into a so-called “self-transcendent experience” (STEs).

STE is a special state of mind in which the sense of self-identity diminishes temporarily, and one achieves the so-called oneness with other people and the environment. It is a kind of feeling that sometimes happens when reading a book. However, this kind of experience is much weaker when reading a book.

However, the kind of experience that occur due to psychedelics is much more intense. It is a feeling of oneness with the cosmos. It is a kind of mystic experience, almost like an encounter with God. 

Researchers say that those who had such kind of experience while taking psilocybin describe it as the most wonderful thing that ever happened to their lives.

It means that there is simply a need to find a safer way of providing such experiences. Now researchers think that perhaps the best way of doing this is by using VR technology. 

In a new program, researchers used VR experience for a group of people to create oneness with the environment and each other. They called this experience Isness. In the study, five participants experienced VR together. They were either located near each other or away. 

VR is unique in a way that it allows even people in remote locations to join each other in such an experience or a trip. Moreover, the VR program safely generates a program enabling participants to descend into self-transcendence. The VR programs help to dimmish the conventional boundaries between people, which they generally maintain from each other. 

Researchers say that in this way, VR provides an entirely new kind of experience in which their bodies fluidly merge with each other. As a result, all experience is quite blurry but unique and spiritual.

It is among the first studies to show that VR can be used for self-transcendent experiences. Thus, there is a further need to explore the technology and its benefits in other health conditions.

Gurpreet Singh Padda, MD, MBA, MHP

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