Linguistic Analysis Of Different Psychedelic Drug Experiences



A group of researchers recently analyzed reports of psychedelic experiences from five different substances to better understand the subjective differences across these substances. The results published in the Psychopharmacology journal highlight the fascinating similarities and differences across Ayahuasca & N,N-dimethyltryptamine, ketamine, LSD, psychedelic mushrooms, MDMA, and an assigned control group of pharmaceutical antidepressants.


The research was conducted using software called Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) that analyzed the content of 2,947 online reports from the Erowid experience vault, an online library of self-reported psychedelic experiences. The sample included 971 reports about magic mushrooms, 671 reports about LSD, 312 reports about DMT, 163 reports about ketamine, 68 reports about ayahuasca, and 236 reports about antidepressant medication.


Researchers at the University of Fribourg led by Adrian Hase, found that the results highlighted distinct profiles of experiences across various substances. “The language in the psychedelic substance report groups that we analyzed clearly differed from that of a group of control reports (describing use of antidepressant drugs), but there also were differences between the different psychedelic substances. Differences were found on language outcomes related to affective processes (positive, negative, sadness, and anxiety words), cognitive processes, analytical thinking, psychedelic experience, and mystical experience.” Hase told PsyPost.


Below is a snapshot of their findings:


  • MDMA: Demonstrated an emotionally intensifying profile along with a large collection of cognitive processing words and dynamic-personal language.

  • Ayahuasca and DMT: Featured little emotional language and cognitive process words but increased analytical thinking-associated language. This class also demonstrated the most semantic similarity with psychedelic and mystical experience descriptions as defined by the Altered States of Consciousness Rating Scale and Hood’s Mysticism Scale.

  • LSD, Psilocybin Mushroom, and Ketamine: Showed only small differences in the language associated with emotions, analytical thinking, psychedelic, and mystical experience.

  • Antidepressants: Demonstrated more negative emotional and cognitive process-related words, fewer positive emotional and analytical thinking-related words, and were generally not similar to mystical and psychedelic language.


While the outcomes are fascinating, due to the research methodology, the reliability of the results is limited as the lead researcher highlighted “The most important thing to note is that we sourced online experience reports and did not actually administer the analyzed substances. Thus, it would be very interesting to replicate our present findings in an experiment where participants receive the substances and detail their experience in a controlled setting. This would answer the question of whether the psychedelic substances themselves or other variables (e.g., expectations, trip setting, demographic factors) are responsible.”


As psychedelic clinical research continues to grow, future large sample set analysis could inform and support the process of personalized psychedelic drug therapies fit to serve each individual's specific needs.


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