A recent scientific study has uncovered an intriguing connection between the use of psilocybin, the psychoactive compound found in certain “magic” mushrooms, and reduced overtime work among full-time employees. While the study’s findings aren’t conclusive proof of causation, they shed light on how psychedelic substances might influence work habits. The research has been published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in the potential therapeutic benefits of psilocybin, with ongoing research exploring its role in treating mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. However, less attention has been paid to how these substances might influence everyday aspects of life, including our work habits and so-called “quiet quitting.”
Quiet quitting refers to a phenomenon where employees, particularly in the United States, increasingly prioritize work-life balance over excessive workplace engagement. Instead of going above and beyond their job duties, these employees simply fulfill their basic responsibilities and are often reluctant to work overtime. This trend is driven by a desire to prioritize personal well-being and family relationships, and it poses potential long-term negative effects on productivity in some companies.
“Numerous scientific studies have demonstrated that psychedelic drug use is rising in the United States while several media reports have suggested increased use among employees. Because of this, I’m motivated to better understand how psychedelic drug use affects organizations and the workforce more generally,” said study author Benjamin A. Korman, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Bamberg.
For his study, Korman analyzed data from a large, nationally representative survey called the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). The survey included responses from over 217,000 individuals aged 18 or older from the United States who were employed full-time between 2002 and 2014. Full-time employment here refers to working for an organization and excludes self-employed individuals or those working without pay in a family business.
The key independent variable in the study was lifetime psilocybin use, which categorized respondents into those who had used psilocybin at least once and those who had never used it. The dependent variable was the number of overtime hours worked in the past week, calculated by subtracting 40 hours (the standard workweek) from the total hours worked.
Several covariates were considered, including age, sex, educational attainment, marital status, annual household income, business category, self-reported engagement in risky behavior, and lifetime use of various other substances, including marijuana, cocaine, stimulants, sedatives, heroin, PCP, and MDMA/ecstasy.
Initially, it appeared that lifetime psilocybin use was positively associated with overtime hours worked. Individuals who had used psychedelic mushrooms at least once in their lifetime tended to work more overtime hours than non-users. However, when Korman controlled for various factors such as age, gender, education, marital status, and more, the association between psychedelic mushroom use and overtime work flipped – it became negative.
But what explains this flip? Psychedelic users are more likely to be male and well-educated compared to the general population, which are both factors related to working in industries that commonly require or encourage overtime work. After these factors were accounted for, psilocybin use was negatively associated with overtime hours worked.
On average, psilocybin users clocked about 3.60 minutes less of overtime per week. While this may not seem like much on an individual level, when you multiply it by the estimated 15 million full-time workers in the U.S. who have used psychedelic mushrooms, it adds up to 44 million fewer overtime hours worked per year.
To examine whether the findings were specific to psilocybin, Korman conducted further analyses that included other classic psychedelics like LSD and mescaline/peyote. However, the negative association between lifetime psilocybin use and overtime hours remained significant, while the use of these other substances showed no such link.
“I was surprised to find that psilocybin, but not other classic psychedelics (LSD or mescaline), was linked to employees’ overtime hours worked,” Korman told PsyPost.
These findings carry significant implications, especially in the context of the ongoing discussions about the decriminalization and legalization of psilocybin in various parts of the United States. While it might seem that reduced overtime work could be costly for organizations, it is also possible that employees who have used psilocybin may be more productive during their regular work hours, reducing the need for overtime to complete tasks.
However, it’s crucial to note that the study has limitations. The cross-sectional design doesn’t establish causality, and the data used are somewhat dated (employment information was not available in the NSDUH survey data from 2015 onward), possibly not fully reflecting current trends in psychedelic use and work habits.
“One major caveat of the study is the correlational nature of its findings,” Korman explained. “This means that we cannot know whether employees’ use of psilocybin lead to their reduced overtime hours worked. Furthermore, the psychological mechanism linking psilocybin use to employees’ overtime hours worked was not studied. The theoretical reasons why psilocybin use may be linked to employees’ overtime hours worked remains, therefore, untested.”
Future research could delve deeper into this intriguing connection. It could explore whether psilocybin-induced changes in mindfulness, connectedness, and nature-relatedness mediate the effect on overtime hours worked. Further studies could also investigate the long-term effects of different classic psychedelics, as their impacts may vary.
“Although the study has its weaknesses, it will hopefully encourage other researchers to consider the unique influences that psychedelic drug use in the workforce may have on organizations,” Korman said. “More refined studies could look at whether the amount of psilocybin use, or the purpose of its use (e.g., recreational vs. medical), has differential effects on work-relevant outcomes.”
The study, “On the mushrooming reports of “quiet quitting”: Employees’ lifetime psilocybin use predicts their overtime hours worked“, was published online on July 31, 2023.