For the study Radmilla Lorencova, at the University of Pardubice in the Czech Republic, interviewed 155 men and women from universities, some kind of club in Prague, and residents of a housing estate.
This being the Czech republic, half of them (74) were atheists, while 24 were conventionally religious and the remaining 57 are described as being "sympathizers with Eastern religions, religious groups or sects, or having their own religion". Eighty-one of them used both marijuana and alcohol (usually not together), while 58 stuck just to alcohol.
The dope smokers scored higher on mystical aspects of spirituality than did alcohol drinkers. What's more, when respondents associated mystical feelings with a drug, it was never with alcohol - instead they mentioned LSD and marijuana.
The most common experience that was linked to drug use was that "I have had the feeling that the secrets of the universe and of existence are opening before me". Potent stuff.
However, this link between drug use and spirituality was not seen among atheists. Atheists, as you would expect, scored rather low on measures of mystical aspects of spirituality (although they score just as high as everyone else on aspects of moral involvement and conscientiousness).
Now, the other interesting finding was that drug use was equally spread across all groups. While 60% of 'sympathizers' and 57% of atheists smoked dope, so did 50% of the religious - a small difference that wasn't statistically significant.
So it seems that there are religious (and religiously minded) Czechs out there getting powerful spiritual experiences from smoking dope, but that alcohol is free of spiritualistic baggage.
Which makes me wonder about a seemingly unrelated fact. Have you ever wondered why marijuana is illegal, while alcohol is not? You could argue that alcohol is part of the traditional culture for Europeans, but then what about tobacco?
Perhaps there is a religious subtext. Perhaps marijuana is frowned upon because of the danger of leading people away from official religions, by giving them mystical experiences not tied to the official dogma.
By the way, this is the second post about alcohol drinking in the Czech republic. In case you missed the first one (from 2008), here it is: Beer and science don't mix!
Lorencova R (2011). Religiosity and spirituality of alcohol and marijuana users. Journal of psychoactive drugs, 43 (3), 180-7 PMID: 22111401
This article by Tom Rees was first published on Epiphenom. It is licensed under Creative Commons.