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Psychedelic Drugs and Prayer Have Similar Effects on Brain

When it comes to “out-of-body” experiences, plenty of people have reported having them during both religious awakenings and while tripping on psychedelic drugs.

Although these two experiences may seem completely opposite to each other, one scientist has suggested that there are some pretty striking similarities in the brains of people who observe prayer and the people who indulge in psychedelic drugs.

A Different Kind of Trip

Neuroscientist Andrew Newberg , who is the director of research at Philadelphia’s Jefferson Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine, spoke with HuffPost Live about neurotheology –  or the relationship between the brain and theology.

Using slides to demonstrate his point, Newberg said that the experiences of prayer and tripping on hallucinogenics “tend to result in very permanent changes in the way in which the brain works” and can result in people changing “their entire way of life” from these experiences.

His conclusions came from a study that examined the brains of nuns who used the “centering prayer” in order to achieve “oneness with God” in their lives.

“I always use the analogy about me wearing glasses,” Newberg explained.

“When I wake up in the morning, it’s a very fuzzy world. I put my glasses on and I see the world clearly. It’s possible these kind of experiences [with drugs] are not artificial or false, but really enable a person and a person’s brain to experience the world in a much more fundamental way.”

Making Smart Choices

If it’s true that both methods can produce similar experiences and results, most would strongly advocate for prayer instead of using psychedelic drugs and hallucinogens.

The Serenity Prayer is often used in recovery settings to help sober people relinquish control and create a greater sense of calm.

A slightly modified version of the original prayer has been adopted by many 12-Step groups: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can change, and wisdom to know the difference.

Developing Your Own Kind of Faith

Although the word “God” can make non-religious people nervous, developing faith in recovery does not mean adhering to a specific religious doctrine. It simply means that you are adhering to the belief that if you put in the work and do the right things, then good things will happen to you.

There is a great deal of uncertainty in the early stages of recovery that can be overwhelming for some people.

Relinquishing control to a higher power, whatever you may believe that to be, can be helpful in focusing on the present and developing faith that things will work out in the future.


Additional Reading: The Strangest Hallucinogenic Substances on Earth

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