A single high dose of the hallucinogen psilocybin, the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms” can create lasting personality change lastting at least a year toward having more “openness” according to a new study released by John Hopkins University. The lasting change was found in the part of the personality known as openness which includes traits related to imagination, aesthetics, feelings abstract and general broad-mindedness.

The mushrooms are generally eaten. The participants completed two to five eight hour drug sessions. Allmost all the participants considered themselves “spiritually active,” meaning they participated regularly in religious services, prayer or meditation, with more than half of the people having undergraduate degrees.

“The sessions with the otherwise illegal hallucinogen were closely monitored and the volunteers were considered to be psychologically health,” according to a released statement from the university’s media relations and public affairs office.

Psilocybin is illegal in the United States and is considered a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, according to the U.S. Justice Department. "Normally, if anything, openness tends to decrease as people get older," says study leader Roland R. Griffiths, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Griffiths said he believes psilocybin may have therapeutic users and is currently studying whether the hallucinogen has a use in helping cancer patients handle the depression and anxiety that comes with a diagnosis. He also is looking to determine if it can help cigarette smokers quit. The study found a shift in personality among 30 of the patients investigated (60 percent) and no change in 21 patients. There were 51 participants in the study. The research was funded in part by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.