People who took an illegal drug made from mushrooms reported profound mystical experiences that led to behavior changes lasting for weeks, as part of an experiment that recalls the psychedelic '60s.
Many of the 36 volunteers rated their reaction to a single dose of the drug, called psilocybin, as one of the most meaningful or spiritually significant experiences of their lives. Some compared it to the birth of a child or the death of a parent.
Such comments "just seemed unbelievable," said Roland Griffiths of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, the study's lead author.
But do not try this at home, he warned. "Absolutely don't."
Almost a third of the research participants found the drug experience frightening even in the very controlled setting. That suggests people experimenting with the illicit drug on their own could be harmed, Griffiths said.
Viewed by some as a landmark, the study is one of the few rigorous looks in the past 40 years at a hallucinogen's effects. The researchers suggest the drug someday may help drug addicts kick their habit or aid terminally ill patients struggling with anxiety and depression.
It may also provide a way to study what happens in the brain during intense spiritual experiences, the scientists said, reports AP.