Values and beliefs of psychedelic drug users: A cross-cultural study

Michael Lerner, Michael Lyvers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

73 Citations (Scopus)


Psychedelic drugs such as LSD and psilocybin are often claimed to be capable of inducing life-changing experiences described as mystical or transcendental, especially if high doses are taken. The present study examined possible enduring effects of such experiences by comparing users of psychedelic drugs (n = 88), users of nonpsychedelic illegal drugs (e.g., marijuana, amphetamines) (n = 29) and non illicit drug-using social drinkers (n = 66) on questionnaire measures of values, beliefs and emotional empathy. Samples were obtained from Israel (n = 110) and Australia (n = 73) in a cross-cultural comparison to see if values associated with psychedelic drug use transcended culture of origin. Psychedelic users scored significantly higher on mystical beliefs (e.g., oneness with God and the universe) and life values of spirituality and concern for others than the other groups, and lower on the value of financial prosperity, irrespective of culture of origin. Users of nonpsychedelic illegal drugs scored significantly lower on a measure of coping ability than both psychedelic users and non illicit drug users. Both groups of illegal drug users scored significantly higher on empathy than non illicit drug users. Results are discussed in the context of earlier findings from Pahnke (1966) and Doblin (1991) of the transformative effect of psychedelic experiences, although the possibility remains that present findings reflect predrug characteristics of those who chose to take psychedelic drugs rather than effects of the drugs themselves.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-147
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Psychoactive Drugs
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2006


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