Can Taking Psychedelics Change Your Political Beliefs? It’s Complicated.

Will taking psychedelics turn you into a liberal hippie?

Evan Lewis-Healey
5 min readJun 16, 2021


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“Turn on, tune in, and drop out.” Timothy Leary, the psychologist-turned-psychedelics-advocate spoke these words to 30,000 hippies gathered in Golden Gate Park in 1967. The now-iconic phrase became the motto of the counterculture movement of the 1960s and ‘70s.

The movement represented an anti-establishment, New Left way of thinking, and psychedelics such as LSD became entangled with this belief system. Were these substances responsible for such an extreme political alignment? Do psychedelics really have the power to shift political beliefs?

Psychedelics Open Minds

The last decade has seen an explosion of interest into psychedelics. One pioneering study that may illuminate how psychedelics could have an effect on belief systems was conducted in 2011. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University tested the effects of a high dose of psilocybin, the psychoactive component in magic mushrooms, on 52 willing participants. All of these people had never been exposed to the effects of psychedelic substances before this experiment.

The researchers found that many of the participants went through one of the quintessential consequences of a psychedelic session — the mystical-type experience. This state of consciousness is defined by losing the grip on time and space, experiencing inner peace, and feeling interconnected to everything in the moment. Some of the participants succumbed to this, with many crossing the threshold of a “complete” mystical experience.

Crucially, the researchers also found that some of the participants in the study had significant changes in their personality. More specifically, psychedelics made people more open.

Openness is characterised by aesthetic appreciation and sensitivity, imagination and fantasy, and “broad-minded tolerance of others’ viewpoints and values”. For participants that did have a shift towards being more open, this shift remained stable a year after their psychedelic experience.

This finding, however, seems particularly relevant for understanding why psychedelics could have an impact on…



Evan Lewis-Healey

PhD student at Cambridge University. Studying the cognitive neuroscience of altered states of consciousness | Writer for Psychedelic Spotlight

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