By Chris Emery
The hallucinogen in the "magic mushrooms" of the 1960s can produce terror, paranoia and schizophrenia, but it can also spark a religious and mystical experience that leaves the user feeling kinder and happier, Johns Hopkins University scientists reported today.
In a federally funded study, Hopkins researchers gave 36 volunteers pills containing psilocybin, a hallucinogen occurring naturally in some species of wild mushrooms. The volunteers then slipped on eye covers, put on headphones playing classical music and followed instructions to "look inward."
Afterward, many reported an altered state of mind similar to experiences recorded over the centuries by religious faithful whose numbers have included Buddhist monks, Sufi whirling dervishes and Christian saints.