Medical Research Psychedelics Science

Can Psychedelics Really Improve Health Behaviors & Quality-of-Life?

Written by Anthony DiMeo

The psychedelics revolution that occurred in the middle of the twentieth century ushered in a new era regarding human thought and expression. However, any efforts to study and better understand how the very same psychedelics function and can benefit the human mind were ultimately hampered by populist political rhetoric that heavily influenced public opinion just a few short years later. Decades after, public opinion has now boomeranged its way back to a much more favorable stance regarding psychedelic substances such as psilocybin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), and ayahuasca – particularly in how experiences with these substances can have the ability to promote a healthier lifestyle trajectory long-term.

The element of neuroplasticity that psychedelics promote lends itself to what researchers refer to as the ‘REBUS” model, or “relaxed beliefs under psychedelics.” This means that there is an effect with psychedelics that allows us to feel, according to the researchers, “a relaxation of beliefs or assumptions about one’s identity and relationships with others and the universe as a whole.” Whereas negative things like addictions, anxieties, disorders, and compulsions are rigidly encoded in the brain and can affect so many aspects of a person’s life, the REBUS model notes that psychedelics “afford the individual respite from such weighty beliefs and thus a window of opportunity for change that can be exploited if combined to a commitment to therapeutic development.” [1]

Essentially this “re-wiring” of the brain during and after a psychedelic experience results in increased introspection, creativity, and a desire to seek and explore different behaviors since being enlightened by new patterns of thinking, believing, or behaving. This “openness to experience” begins to occur at even a basic level of perception post-experience, but it can also be assumed that long-term changes in behavior are also affected at all levels of human cognition. [1]

In two studies stemming from a psilocybin-assisted therapy program conducted at Johns Hopkins University to stop smoking cessation, participants showed quite significant increases in self-reported “positive behavior changes” during the course of the treatment. These included increases in time spent in nature, taking more personal time, being more socially-active, and engagement with art. [2-3]

Psychedelic substances such as ayahuasca have demonstrated in a qualitative descriptive study that those with eating disorders are able to more easily identify psychological reasons for their disorders. [4] The study participants were thus able to manage or completely eliminate symptoms after having partaken in ingestion of the substance during an “ayahuasca ceremony.”

Microdosing with LSD or psilocybin was shown to improve meditative practice (49.1%), exercise (49.1%), eating habits (36%), sleep habits (28.8%), as well as significant decreases in caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco, according to a study done by Anderson et al. [5]

In several surveys conducted here in the US, 55-63% of people have either “reduced alcohol consumption”, “improved diet”, or reported “increased exercise” after a psychedelic experience. [6]

When samples of data and analysis presented above are taken into consideration, a correlation can be made that psychedelic-assisted interventions that target specific health behavior changes could result in even higher levels of success and increased quality-of-life for those that seek it. As social dynamics regarding psychedelics continue to improve even more, it is reasonable to assume that we will begin to see a substantial increase in psychedelic treatment options available to the those that can potentially benefit.



[1] Carhart-Harris RL and Friston KJ. REBUS and the anarchic brain: Toward a unified model of the brain action of psychedelics. Pharmacol Rev. 2019.71: 316-344. [journal impact factor = 25.47; times cited = 239]


[2] Johnson et al. Pilot study of the 5-HT2AR agonist psilocybin in the treatment of tobacco addiction. J Psychopharmacol. 2014.28. 983-992. [journal impact factor = 4.738; times cited = 569]


[3] Johnson et al. Long-term follow-up of psilocybin-facilitated smoking cessation. American Journal of Drug & Alcohol Abuse.2017.43.55-60. [journal impact factor = 1.828; times cited = 283]


[4] Lafrance A, Loizaga-Velder A, Fletcher J, et al. Nourishing the spirit: Exploratory research on ayahuasca experiences along the continuum of recovery from eating disorders. Journal of Psychedelic Drugs.2017.49:427-435. [journal impact factor = 71.74; times cited = 52]


[5] Anderson T, Petranker R, Christopher A, et al. Psychedelic microdosing benefits and challenges: An empirical codebook. Harm Reduction Journal.201916:43. [journal impact factor = 4.362; times cited = 38]


[6] Garcia-Romeau A, Davis AK, Erowid E, et al. Cessation and reduction in alcohol consumption and misuse after psychedelic use.J Psychopharmacol.2019.33.1088-1101. [journal impact factor = 4.738; times cited = 84]

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Anthony DiMeo

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