Marijuana seems to increase the effects of psychedelics, intensifying the experience, according to a new study.
Researchers at Imperial College London analyzed online surveys from 321 people who described various aspects of their psychedelics experience and reported on whether they used cannabis at the same time and, if so, how much.
What they found was that consuming marijuana concurrently with substances like psilocybin, LSD, DMT, ayahuasca or mescaline increased the intensity of the trip in a dose-dependent manner.
Use of cannabis together with psychedelics was “associated with higher scores of mystical-type experience, ego-dissolution and visual alterations,” the study, published last week in the journal Psychopharmacology, states. And in general, the more marijuana a person said they used, the more intense the psychedelic effect.
There was a unique exception to that trend when it came to “challenging aspects of the psychedelic experience” like feelings of fear, grief and insanity. People who consumed lower doses of cannabis in tandem with the substances had fewer challenging experiences compared to people who didn’t use marijuana, but those who had high doses of cannabis had more challenges.
“The simultaneous use of cannabis together with classic serotonergic psychedelics was associated with more intense psychedelic experience across a range of measures.”
For the study, participants were asked to take a series of surveys seven days before, and one day after, a “planned experience with a serotonergic psychedelic.” The surveys touched on a wide range of factors, including mystical experiences, emotional breakthroughs and ego dissolution.
“Given the high rates of cannabis use in concert with the use of psychedelic substances, the current research has important implications for harm reduction education but may, eventually, also have implications for therapeutic use, considering that some of the therapeutically desirable psychological effects associated with psychedelics may, in theory, be enhanced by concomitant cannabis use,” the study says.
Of course, there are some limitations to a study that analyzes subjective survey data, the researchers noted.
Because they weren’t there to directly observe participants, there is some uncertainty about the accuracy of the dosages and timing of administration that participants reported, for example.
In any case, the authors said the initial data is a good jumping off point for future studies.
“It is quite plausible that some individuals may use cannabis in an attempt to alter effects or experiences principally induced by the psychedelic, in the same way that some cannabis users report using cannabis to ‘self-medicate’ for psychiatric symptoms,” the authors wrote. “Future controlled research is needed to better assess causal interactions between cannabis and psychedelics in relation to acute and more enduring psychological effects.”
“Overall, this study provided a first quantitative insight into the modulation of subjective psychedelic effects by cannabis,” they said.
Image element courtesy of Kristie Gianopulos.