Guide to Psilocybin Mushrooms
- May 24, 2020
Psilocybin mushrooms are fungi that contain the psychoactive compound psilocybin, a naturally occurring psychedelic compound capable of producing powerful hallucinations and mystical-type experiences, along with other effects. Psilocybin is more commonly known as “magic mushrooms” or “shrooms.” More than 180 species of mushrooms contain psilocybin or its derivative psilocin, and the fungi have a long history of use in Mesoamerican spiritual and religious rituals. They’re also one of the most popular and commonly used psychedelics in the U.S. and Europe. A Guide to Psilocybin Mushrooms;
Psilocybin mushrooms are more than just a drug and sacrament, however. They’ve been used in therapeutic settings to treat a variety of ailments and disorders including cluster headaches, obsessive-compulsive disorders, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and addiction, and a recent resurgence in research into psilocybin’s therapeutic effects is showing promising results.
While psilocybin mushrooms have been decriminalized in three North American cities (see “Legality” for details), they are still illegal at the federal level and are categorized as a Schedule I controlled substance in the U.S. Recently, however, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) have allowed a number of small, highly controlled human studies on their potential for use in medical and psychiatric settings. The FDA also designated psilocybin as a “breakthrough therapy” for depression, which could accelerate the process of psilocybin drug
Many factors contribute to the psilocybin experience, including dose, mindset, setting, and your body’s personal chemistry. With that in mind, each individual journey will be unique to the person, time, and place, and there’s no way to predict exactly what will happen. But understanding the common experiences and effects of psilocybin will help you prepare for your journey.
Guide to Psilocybin Mushrooms – Psilocybin mushrooms are generally eaten in their whole, dried form and most people agree they don’t taste great. To mask the flavor, some people brew the mushrooms into a tea, put them in Nutella or peanut butter, blend them a juice or smoothie, or grind them up and put them into capsules. Each of these ways will have a slightly different effect. Drinking a mushroom tea, for example, will bring on the effects faster than eating them; swallowing capsules will make the effects come on a little later.
A typical trip on a moderate dose of psilocybin mushrooms (1-2.5g) includes an increased intensity of emotional experiences, increased introspection, and altered psychological functioning in the form of “hypnagogic experiences,” which is the transitory state between wakefulness and sleep. In fact, brain imaging studies show that a psilocybin trip is neurologically similar to dreaming, which gives you a good idea of the mindset you’re entering when undertaking a psychedelic experience.
During a psilocybin experience, you can expect to experience perceptual changes, synesthesia, emotional shifts, and a distorted sense of time. Perceptual changes can include visuals such as halos around lights and objects as well as geometric patterns when your eyes are closed. You may also experience vivid colors, tracers, distorted vision, and a sense of the world breathing around you.
Thoughts and emotions can change, too. It’s not uncommon to have a sense of openness to thoughts and feelings that you avoid in your everyday life, as well as a sense of wonder and delight with the world around you, the people in your life, and your own mind. You may also feel a sense of peace and connection with the world.
Strong emotions, both enjoyable and challenging, are common during a journey. When undesirable feelings do arise, it’s best not to resist but rather let the feelings run their course. Many people who have reported the presence of strong negative emotions also report feeling a simultaneous sense of calm acceptance and detachment, especially if they don’t resist and remind themselves that the emotions are temporary. Resisting the emotions can lead to a “bad trip.” (See “Bad trips” for more details.)
Physical side effects vary from person to person, but they can include a change in heart rate (up or down), change in blood pressure (up or down), nausea, increased tendon reflexes, tremors, dilated pupils, restlessness or arousal, and trouble with coordinated movement. Some also report feeling deeply relaxed and calm.
One study also found that psilocybin can cause headaches that last for up to a day in healthy individuals. None of the subjects reported severe headaches, however, and psilocybin is actually used to treat a clinical condition called cluster headaches (see “Therapeutic Uses” section).
The four basic phases of a mushroom trip are ingestion, onset, the trip (peak), and the comedown. Each phase comes with its own set of perceptions and observations. The peak, which typically occurs a couple of hours after ingestion, results in the most intense sensory and psychological shifts. No matter what phase you’re in, it’s important to relax and remember that what you’re experiencing is temporary, and there is nothing to fear.
Check out our detailed guide on what to expect during a psilocybin mushroom trip for more information.
Guide to Psilocybin Mushrooms – Anyone curious about trying psilocybin mushrooms for the first time will inevitably worry at some point about having a “bad trip,” which can happen. A bad trip might include dysphoric hallucinations, uncontrollable paranoia, and reckless behaviors. However, the risks associated with a psilocybin experience can be minimized by adhering to the 6S’s of the psychedelic experience—set, setting, substance, sitter, session, and situation. Being prepared and knowing your motivations before undertaking a psychedelic experience can help manage the risks. Also, it’s best to ignore the many portrayals of bad trips in popular culture. These scenes rarely capture the experience accurately and allude to bad trips being more common and out of your control than they actually are. Most bad trips can be managed with interpersonal support and without pharmaceutical intervention.