Special Report: Psychedelics in Medicine Part 4: Music and psychedelic drug experiences

Section 4: Music and psychedelic drug experiences

In the context of improved insight and mystical and spiritual experiences among users of psychedelic drugs, it is important to consider how these subjective experiences translate to clinical care and enhanced well-being. It has long been suggested that music could be incorporated into psychedelic drug treatment,[1] which may facilitate the demonstrated positive outcomes.[2] Several studies have suggested that the environment of psychedelic drug treatment, such as support and comfort, is associated with its overall outcomes.[3,4] Therefore, the ability for music to alter one’s state of consciousness, such as trances, may generate a more effective treatment environment. Subjective experiences of participants suggest that it may be possible to choose the appropriate music and determine the peaks that will result in improved outcomes during psychedelic drug treatment.[5]

With lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) treatment, broad effects on brain entropy and sensory networks are reported to improve psychedelic experiences and lower one’s ego defenses that may be exacerbating symptoms.[6] The known serotonergic alterations associated with psychedelic drug use also appears to play a putative role in positive outcomes. Specifically, 5-HT2A receptor subtype signaling is a key component of an individual’s ability to track tonal structure in music, which impacts feelings of connectedness, emotionality, and life meaningfulness.[7]

In the context of smoking cessation, and possibly other substance use, some evidence suggests that music type may determine whether or not the psychedelic treatment is effective. For example, scoring of mystical experiences were higher during overtone-based music compared to Western classical sessions.[8] The literature does suggest, however, that music can evoke negative imagery depending on its content, such that further research should investigate these suboptimal outcomes.[9] Though individual-level experiences are difficult to predict due to unique musical interests, it does overwhelming seem to harbor potential in strengthening connection to the psychedelic experience, as well as promoting effects that last longer.[10]

Image: PD

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