New research recently published in Psychopharmacology provides evidence that inert placebo pills can induce psychedelic-like effects, including perceptual alterations. The findings highlight the importance of expectations and context when ingesting psychedelic substances. The study also sheds some light on the mystery of so-called contact highs.
“I am interested in placebos generally and in particular in maximizing their effects. When I was reading clinical trials of psychedelic drugs, I was surprised by the low placebo effects reported in many studies,” said study author Jay Olson, who recently earned his PhD in psychiatry from McGill University.
“We have other evidence that people can have psychedelic-like effects without taking the drug. For example, in the case of ‘contact highs’ in which people feel the effects of drugs merely by being around people who have consumed the drug. Or, other people have reported having experiences after taking fake drugs, such as after consuming empty blotter paper rather than LSD. We thus thought that with the right context, we may be able to promote strong placebo psychedelic effects.”