ASPPH logo


Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UAB Researcher Assesses Psychedelic Use and Creative Problem Solving

In a recent study led by Mr. Noah W. Sweat, program coordinator in the department of health behavior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the link between the naturalistic use of classic psychedelic drugs and creative problem-solving ability was examined.


[Photo: Mr. Noah W. Sweat]

A total of 68 participants were asked to gauge “lifetime mystical experience” and asked about drug use during or immediately prior to the experience. Study subjects’ performance on a functional fixedness task was then evaluated in relation to speed of completion in order to calculate their problem-solving abilities.

“Participants reporting classic psychedelic use concurrent with mystical experience (n = 11) exhibited significantly faster times on the functional fixedness task (Cohen’s d = –.87; large effect) and significantly greater lifetime mystical experience (Cohen’s d = .93; large effect) than participants not reporting classic psychedelic use concurrent with mystical experience. However, lifetime mystical experience was unrelated to completion times on the functional fixedness task (standardized β = –.06) and, therefore, not a significant mediator,” noted Mr. Sweat.

These results indicate that classic psychedelics may increase creativity in users independent of the drugs’ effect on mystical experience. Thus, maximizing the likelihood of mystical experience may not necessarily be an essential goal of psychedelic interventions designed to increase creativity.

Co-investigators in the study include Dr. Peter S. Hendricks, associate professor in UAB’s department of health behavior.

“The Associations of Naturalistic Classic Psychedelic Use, Mystical Experience, and Creative Problem Solving” was published online in October 2016 in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.

Journal article: