Psychedelics and near-death experiences reduce the fear of death

Summary: For some people, fear of death may become disastrous, for example, cancer patients. However, overcoming this fear may help improve their quality of life. It appears that some people who had near-death experiences reported reduced fear of death. Now a study shows that psychedelics may also have similar kind of effects.


Humans aren’t immortal; thus, everyone would die one day. People are always looking for ways to prolong life. Some fear of death is normal. However, in some instances, excessive fear of death may cause harm.


For example, a person diagnosed with cancer may develop severe fear of death, resulting in mental health issues and a reduced lifespan. It means that excessive fear of death is bad for health, and it is something that doctors must manage. Though there are many ways to manage such a fear, like better communication, psychotherapy, and medical drugs, these methods often fail to help.


It would have been great if we had some medications that could reduce the fear of death. Especially something that works faster and combines well with psychotherapy. Now researchers think that one such option could be using psychedelics in terminally ill patients.


Researchers have noticed earlier that those who had a psychedelic experience or near-death experience reported reduced fear of death. This may have a positive impact on their mental health. It also provides them with meaning in life and has a spiritual significance. However, to date, these have been just observations, and thus researchers tried to explore this topic in a study.


Though there is no doubt that many people with near-death experiences and those using psychedelics have unusual and sometimes highly spiritual experiences, researchers wanted to understand the difference. Thus, in the study, they surveyed 3192 individuals. Out of them, 933 had a near-death experience, but they did not use any drug. Among the rest, 904 used LSD, 766 psilocybin, 282 ayahuasca, and 307 DMT. They found a significant difference in the experiences of various groups.


Those with near-death experience reported being unconscious and clinically dead, and they felt their life was in danger. However, after recovery, they reported reduced fear of death, a positive attitude, and other psychological changes. Most also reported it as a kind of spiritual experience.


Though both groups reported mystical experiences, such experiences were more intense in psychedelic users.


For non-drug users, the near-death experience was the single most important thing or experience in their lives. However, in those who used drugs, DMT and ayahuasca groups reported stronger and more persistent positive impacts compared to psilocybin and LSD groups.


These are interesting findings, as many have heard of interesting and even spiritual experiences of those who have been very close to death. Such individuals are transformed by such an experience, becoming more spiritual and positive. This may explain why many such individuals go on to live for several years after a near-death experience.


However, science shows that a similar kind of experience can be safely induced by using psychedelics.


Though more studies are needed to understand how psychedelics might be used, it shows that when used responsibly and under medical supervision, psychedelics can be quite good for managing mental health issues.


Health experts are already testing psychedelics for managing severe depression. Now, study shows that they can be suitable for those who fear death. It is quite likely that psychedelics may help those diagnosed with severe health conditions like cancer. This will enable them to enjoy their remaining days by living without fear of death.

Gurpreet Singh Padda, MD, MBA, MHP

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