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About The Psilocybin Mushrooms

Much like the many terpenes and compounds that naturally occur in the cannabis plant, psilocybin naturally occurs in both wild and cultivated mushrooms. Psilocybin (4-phosphoryloxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine) is a natural psychoactive and hallucinogenic compound, which when distributed under the “street name” magic mushrooms  is the most popular and well-known psychedelic.

Belonging to the psychedelic category of drugs (drugs which trigger shifts in thought, perception, and mood), psilocybin is officially categorized by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) as a Schedule I drug in the United States. Schedule I drugs (a category which also includes heroin and LSD) are deemed to have a high risk of misuse or harm, and are not cleared for recreational, therapeutic, or medical treatment.

Sources of psilocybin

Psilocybin is found in wild and cultivated mushrooms, where it is a naturally occurring compound. There are over 200 species or variations of psilocybin mushrooms, all of which evolved from their shared ancestor muscarine. Most species of psilocybin mushrooms are found in Mexico, though they are also found in Canada, the U.S., as well as across Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia.

Magic mushrooms are usually dark-spored gilled mushrooms that tend to grow in humid tropic/subtropic conditions. Since some varieties of poisonous mushrooms look very similar to psilocybin mushrooms, it is very important to only consume mushrooms from a reputable source.

Effects of psilocybin

Magic mushrooms are consumed for their hallucinogenic and mind altering effects. When psilocybin is taken orally, the compound is converted within the body to psilocin, a chemical that has the desired psychoactive and hallucinogenic properties. When you consume magic mushrooms, psilocybin activates your serotonin receptors (located in the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain responsible for perception, cognition, and mood) as well as affects other areas of your brain such as those that regulate arousal and panic.

As with other psychedelic drugs, the psychoactive and physical effects of magic mushrooms vary from individual to individual, and is affected by factors such as body weight, experience with psychedelics and other drugs, interactions with other drugs or medications recently consumed, history with mental illness, environment, mental and overall health; as well as specificities of the drug such as the species, amount, quality, and freshness of the ​​psilocybin mushrooms consumed.

Common descriptions of “trips” include interesting and trippy auditory and visual hallucinations, feelings of peace, serenity, togetherness, and positivity, as well as an increased sense of connection to those around you and the natural world. ​​Psilocybin does not produce hallucinations in all users; for some their perception is instead shifted and they may perceive objects and people in their environment differently while they are high.

How to use magic mushrooms

Make sure to procure magic mushrooms from a reputable and safe source. Most psilocybin mushrooms will be dried, though they can also be consumed fresh. Dried psilocybin mushrooms are much more potent than those that are consumed fresh.

Dried magic mushrooms can be eaten as is, though since they have a strong and unpleasant taste many choose to make steeped tea with them or to consume them mixed in with other food. Products like magic mushroom chocolates are also popular, as strong flavors help to mask the potent and unpalatable taste of magic mushrooms.

Therapeutic uses of psilocybin

Like CBD oil, doctors have found that psilocybin therapy can be rapidly successful at treating and improving anxiety and depression. A  2020 John Hopkins Medicine study of a small group of adults suffering from major depression reported that two doses of psilocybin treatments, when combined with supportive therapy, resulted in a significant reduction in depression symptoms for the majority of participants, and remission of depression after four weeks in about half of participants.

Though psilocybin is still an under-studied substance, more and more studies are funded and given the green light as psilocybin depression research studies are released with positive findings.

Usage of psilocybin for end-of-life therapy

Psilocybin treatments have been studied for usage as a treatment for end-of-life care for patients with terminal conditions. Due to the perception shifting and positive mindsets that psilocybin induces in most users, it has been found to be an often effective treatment for cancer patients’ anxieties about illness and death, as well as the existential dread associated with serious illness.

2018 John Hopkins Medicine study found that 80% of the 51 participants experienced significant relief from their anxiety and depression over a six-month period, after being given two doses of psilocybin treatment.

Benefits of psilocybin

Psilocybin treatments for both therapeutic and spiritual purposes have been well documented in indigenous communities, dating back centuries to even Mesoamerican times. Those who use magic mushrooms in club and party settings to feel an experience of transcendence or spiritual connection can attest to psilocybin therapy being effective.

Many who use magic mushrooms, whether as a one-time event or regularly, report that the mental and emotional shifts they experience during trips often carry over into their day-to-day life in a positive way. Despite its status as a Schedule I drug in the United States, psilocybin has been tested by doctors and researchers in medical settings for effectiveness at treating everything from anxiety, depression, end of life anxiety, cluster headaches, and more.

What is microdosing?

Microdosing is the practice of consuming very small amounts of psychedelics (one-20th to one-tenth of a normal recreational dose), in order to reap more gentle versions of the mindfulness, focus, and well-being that are felt during a trip.

Growing in popularity among younger Millennials, microdosing has many benefits such as increased focus, empathy, openness, and kindness, as well as the sensation of enhancing rather than altering quotidien life. Fans of microdosing mushrooms find that this kind of psilocybin therapy helps ameliorate their mood, improve sleeping and eating habits, and curb caffeine dependency.

To microdose, you’ll need a safe supply of dried mushrooms, a scale capable of registering a thousandth of a gram, a grinder to break down the mushrooms, and gel caps. With this starter kit you can measure out and package your microdoses ahead of time; the most commonly recommended schedule is to dose once every 3 days for a month.

The risks and side effects of microdosing psilocybin therapy are virtually unknown; both because dosing and measuring at such a small scale is imprecise and prone to mix-ups and unintentional trips, and also because very few controlled trials have been conducted.

Side effects of psilocybin

As with any natural substance or herbal medicine, psilocybin affects individuals differently. The most common negative side effect of consuming psilocybin mushrooms is what is known colloquially as a “bad trip,” which is when the thoughts, visualizations, and hallucinations that accompany the use turn unpleasant, upsetting, or frightening. For some, memories of the “bad trip” may last for years after the incident and come back to the user in upsetting “flashbacks.”

Some users may also experience other psychological side effects such as agitation, confusion, paranoia and panic, delirium, or psychosis. Physical side effects can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle weakness,  lack of coordination, and seizures.

“Coming down” from using psilocybin mushrooms may cause some users to feel depressed, anxious, and tired, though psilocybin depression post use is not commonly reported.

As with any substance, risk of negative side effects can be exacerbated when the drug is combined  with other substances such as alcohol or marijuana.

Legality of psilocybin

The legality and legislature surrounding ​​psilocybin mushrooms differs depending on the country you are in. In the United States, ​​psilocybin mushrooms are not legalized, and are classified as a Schedule I drug by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration).

In 2020, the state of Oregon voted to both legalize and decriminalize psilocybin, and Seattle recently voted to decriminalize it as well. Decriminalization means that police will not actively enforce psilocybin-related arrests and prosecutions, ideally ending low-level enforcement around mushroom use and possession. By 2023, Oregon will begin welcoming the regulated use of psilocybin in therapeutic settings.

Types of magic mushrooms

Did you know that more than two hundred species of psilocybin mushrooms grow wildly and naturally across the globe? What’s more, many species even have dozens of offshoot strains, each replete with their very own signature shape, flavor, and trip.

The most well-known species, and the one you’re most likely to encounter, is the famous psilocybe cubensis. That’s because this strain is easily grown indoors, a practice that has been taken up by hobby mushroom enthusiasts and which has resulted in over 60 strains being invented through selective breeding.

As with home grown cannabis, home growers of psilocybin can selectively increase certain desirable traits and reduce undesirable ones, which is why cultivated mushrooms are often much more potent than those found in the wild.

Things to know before taking psilocybin

Before consuming magic mushrooms, remember that all substance use comes with some degree of risk. Stay informed by familiarizing yourself with possible side effects (listed above), and consider your tolerance to possibly encountering them (the ZENDO project is a great resource for those who find themselves in a “bad trip”).

Firstly, make sure your supply comes from a safe and reputable source. Secondly, ensure you are in a safe environment that feels good for you. Seasoned users will know what environments are best for them to have a session in; new users who aren’t sure how they will react should focus on creating a calming, peaceful zone where they won’t be disturbed for several hours.

Many find that being in nature enhances the effects of the substance. If you’re feeling unsure, do some research on how to create the perfect environment for a good trip, or call up an experienced friend who can offer anecdotes and advice. You should always try to ingest magic mushrooms with others if possible, and if not have a sober friend with you or close by.

Final thoughts

From the potential of psilocybin therapy to the growing interest in psilocybin microdosing, there’s no doubt that the popularity of magic mushrooms is as steady as ever. If you are interested in trying out ​​psilocybin mushrooms to reap the benefits, shift your perspective, or to see what all the buzz is about, then be sure to review the info above, and then get out there and have fun!