Psychedelic substances can be found in plants like psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, and peyote which have been part of religious rituals and ceremonies in the early American Cultures (Lerner and Lyvers, 2006). These plants are utilized for healing practices and mystical experiences in native religion of indigenous societies (Lerner and Lyvers, 2006). In fact, even at present, the Native American Church and the Uniao Vegetal are still legally permitted to use psychedelic plants as part of their religious worship (Lerner and Lyvers, 2006).
Since psychedelic substances have the capacity to alter the physiological processes of the brain affecting the thoughts and judgment of the users, they are classified as psychoactive drugs under hallucinogenic substances (Lerner and Lyvers, 2006). The most well known psychedelic is the lysergic acid diethylamide or LSD and its synthetic derivatives (Lerner and Lyvers, 2006).
However, these psychoactive substances have been utilized in drug treatment and psychotherapy of substance abuse cases in 1950s and 1960s which caused not only behavioral modification but also behavioral problems that persisted for the entire life of the patient (Lerner and Lyvers, 2006). Nowadays, psychedelic substances are marketed as either synthetic drugs or fresh and dried plants in business establishment or through internet shops (Lerner and Lyvers, 2006).
Even though psychedelic drug abuse and addiction are rare cases, psychedelic substances may induce psychotic reactions and tolerance on its use may rapidly develop (Lerner and Lyvers, 2006). Based on the testimonies of the users, psychedelic substance at high dose causes spiritual transcendence; the users’ ecstasy brings them into a peculiar dimension (Lerner and Lyvers, 2006). Also, users allegedly experienced God and the cosmos, and undergo spiritual rebirth (Lerner and Lyvers, 2006).
Moreover, these spiritual claims illuminated the enlightenment dogma of Hinduism and Buddhism (Lerner and Lyvers, 2006). Hypotheses On the ground that psychedelic substance are legally used for religious ceremonies and that users tend to experience spiritual transcendence, values and beliefs then of psychedelic users are most probably different from that of non-users and even more from illegal substance like heroin, marijuana, and amphetamines users (Lerner and Lyvers, 2006).
Also, since psychedelic substance is legally intended for religious rituals, psychedelic users’ beliefs and values then are culturally universal (Lerner and Lyvers, 2006). These hypotheses were tested by Lerner and Lyvers (2006) in this study by analyzing the values, empathy, beliefs, and coping ability among psychedelic users, non-users, and illegal-drug users (Lerner and Lyvers, 2006). The subjects of their study were taken from two countries with different cultural orientations, Australia and Israel (Lerner and Lyvers, 2006).
As such, they inferred that the attributes of psychedelic users in both countries, regardless of cultural differences in religious beliefs, life values, concern towards others and the environment, and capacity to handle stress, were expected to distinguish them from non-users and illegal-drug users (Lerner and Lyvers, 2006). Also, since psychedelic users are generally religious, they hypothesized that this group should be less concerned with material value such as achievement and prosperity (Lerner and Lyvers, 2006).