Meditation and psychedelic-related challenges and adverse effects

Meditation and psychedelic-related challenges and adverse effects

The many overlaps of meditation and psychedelics:

Meditation, psychedelics, and the altered states they produce are experiencing a renaissance of public and clinical attention. Meditation and psychedelics have been characterized as having similar phenomenological, psychological and neurobiological effects, with a similar range of clinical, spiritual, and wellness applications (Milliere et al., 2018; Scheidegger, 2021). Both meditation and psychedelics are hypothesized to exert their therapeutic effects through their unique ability to produce self-transcendent and mystical experiences (Barrett & Griffiths, 2018; Johnson et al., 2019). As a result, they are increasingly being used together as psychedelic-assisted meditation or mindfulness-based psychedelic programs, launching multi-billion dollar industries (Griffiths et al., 2018; Payne et al., 2021; Qiu & Minda, 2022; Simonsson & Goldberg, 2022).

State of the research on challenging experiences and adverse effects:

Meditation and psychedelics also share a propensity towards “hype,” exaggerated claims, and minimization of negative findings and challenging and/or adverse effects (Coronado-Montoya et al., 2016; Plesa & Petranker, 2022; Van Dam et al., 2018). Comprehensive research on long-term negative impacts on global health and functioning have been largely absent from both psychedelic and meditation research (Aday et al., 2020; Goldberg et al., 2020).

New Study

The current study has two parallel arms, one for meditation-related challenges and adverse effects and one for psychedelic-related challenges and adverse effects. The study aims to answer the following questions:

Research Question 1 What are the demographic and individual difference characteristics of individuals reporting meditation-related and/or psychedelic-related adverse effects?

Research Question 2: What kind of meditation or psychedelic-related difficulties are reported by a general, unrestricted “real world” sample? What is the duration, severity and impact on mental health and functioning of these experiences?

Research Question 3: Given the overlapping phenomenology, benefits, mechanisms and delivery systems of meditation and psychedelics, do the types and course of challenges and adverse effects also overlap? How are they similar or different?

Research Question 4: Do the enduring negative effects of meditation or psychedelics resemble any recognized clinical syndromes (e.g., trauma symptoms) that could inform treatment approaches?

Research Question 5. What factors influence the overall trajectories and outcomes? In other words, are types, doses, personal history, personality, beliefs, specific phenomenology, or contextual/social factors associated with greater vs. lesser severity, duration, and functional impairment?

Research Question 6. What are helpful and unhelpful responses and remedies for psychedelic and meditation-related challenges? What systems of support already exist, how well do they work, and what needs to be created, modified or expanded to better support individuals undergoing psychedelic or meditation-related challenges?