Mushroom drugs, popularly known as magic mushrooms, refer to fungi containing the naturally occurring psychedelic drug known as psilocybin.
Although classified as recreational drugs, a growing body of research pinpoints the potential of psilocybin mushrooms for the treatment of a diverse array of conditions, ranging from drug abuse to depression.
History of Psilocybin Mushrooms
Historians, scientists, and other experts are debating whether there is real evidence that prehistoric people or even ancient civilizations actually used magic mushrooms. With the data currently available, most experts can only glean from these and use their hunch to connect the dots.
According to some experts, there is sufficient proof that North African tribes have used hallucinogenic mushrooms as far back as 9000 BC. One proof these experts point to is the rock paintings found in the area.
Mayans and Aztecs were also believed to have used magic mushrooms for their rituals and ceremonies, along with other psychotropic substances like peyote.
Despite the fact that various ancient civilizations have long used psilocybin-containing mushrooms, it was not until the late fifties that the Western world was introduced to shrooms. The mycologist R. Gordon Wasson is credited for introducing magic mushrooms to the West with his article for Life Magazine in 1957.
In Wasson's article, e details his participation in a ritual where magic mushrooms were used by an indigenous tribe in Oaxaca, Mexico. The editor assigned to the article is credited with giving psilocybin mushrooms their popular nickname - magic mushrooms. It should be noted that Wasson did not actually use shrooms during his trip to Mexico.
Another key figure in the history of magic mushrooms is Albert Hoffman. Dubbed the father of LSD, Hoffman was the first person to extract and isolate psilocybin and psilocin from magic mushrooms, using specimens sent by Wasson from Mexico.
Some credit Timothy Leary, one of the key figures in psychedelic culture, for popularizing magic mushrooms, especially during this time at Harvard University. With Leary's influence, shrooms became an important part of psychedelia and counterculture.
Around this time, many scientists were drawn to magic mushrooms and their potential for treating various diseases. However, the 1970s saw the ban on psilocybin mushrooms, except for a few permits issued for medical research. The ban continued until recently when more areas begin changing their stance on magic mushrooms.
One milestone for research on psilocybin mushrooms came in 2018 when the Food and Drug Administration gave its permission to researchers to see and unlock the potential of shrooms as a treatment for depression. Based on available research, magic mushrooms, in conjunction with therapy, can be used for treatment-resistant depression that affects millions of people around the world.
Scientists from Johns Hopkins University have created the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research to determine the efficacy of magic mushrooms against various conditions, ranging from drug abuse to Lyme disease.
Magic Mushroom Benefits
It is no understatement to say that the ban on psilocybin has set back magic mushroom research by a few decades. Fortunately, scientists have begun looking at substances that were formerly designated as recreational drugs and their potential for curing a variety of ailments. For example, more experts are studying the potential therapeutic benefits of cannabis, LSD, MDMA, and magic mushrooms.
Based on available information, experts say that psilocybin may be able to manage or treat a variety of conditions, especially mental health conditions. However, the FDA hasn't given magic mushrooms its nod. Among the conditions that magic mushrooms can offer some help are cluster headaches, smoking cessation, alcohol and cocaine addiction, depression, obsessive-compulsion disorder, and end-of-life depression.
While more and more scientists are training their sights on unconventional treatments like psychoactive drugs, there are a few stumbling blocks remaining, including social stigma and red tape from government agencies.
To date, many countries still classify magic mushrooms as a Schedule I substance. Essentially, this means that psilocybin mushrooms and other potentially beneficial drugs are seen as drugs with no therapeutic benefits and carry a risk for drug abuse.
But how exactly can psilocybin mushrooms help?
In research done by a team from Johns Hopkins University, experts discovered that psilocybin can help smokers finally break free from their bad habits. Participants in the research were able to stop smoking and become cigarette-free for up to a year.
But aside from smoking cessation, the team from Johns Hopkins University believes that psilocybin has the potential to treat addiction to other substances like cocaine and alcohol.
According to the researchers, substance abuse is the result of narrowed behavioral patterns. Taking magic mushrooms can help people break free from their addictions by restructuring their mental patterns.
Mental health professionals estimate that between 29% and 46% of people suffering from depression respond to current treatment methods available. As such, many are looking for alternatives, including the use of hallucinogenic drugs like psychedelic mushrooms.
In response to this looming crisis, the FDA has given psilocybin depression treatment the status of a breakthrough therapy. This means that research on the potential of psilocybin and psilocin to treat mental health disorders will be fast-tracked.
Based on the current body of research, psilocybin therapy has shown promise of quick and long-term reduction of the symptoms of depression with just a single therapy session. According to the experts, psilocybin reboots the brain and facilitates new neural connections while deactivating neurons seen as responsible for causing depression.
End-of-life anxiety is associated with people who are nearing death. In some patients, the symptoms may be mild while in others, the symptoms can be severe.
Experts are hoping that psilocybin can provide a good measure of relief to people who are overwhelmed by the conditions they face. In 2011, a study delved into the potential of using psilocybin to treat people with end-of-life anxiety. This was followed by a clinical trial conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins in 2016. The researchers discovered that just one psilocybin dose can drastically improve the quality of life of patients while dramatically reducing depression and anxiety.
Risks and barriers
While more and more experts are convinced of the potential of magic mushrooms for treating a diverse array of conditions, most of them remain conservative in their prediction of whether psilocybin-assisted will become more mainstream.
There are a few barriers that hinder the mainstream use of magic mushrooms. For starters, psilocybin is known to elevate blood pressure and even cause irregular heartbeats.
On top of that, taking magic mushrooms, especially if you have a history of mental health problems, can worsen your existing condition. Experts also caution people about having a bad trip which is usually associated with taking magic mushrooms, especially in larger doses. Although fatalities are quite rare in the psychedelic community, there have been reported instances of death.
It is worth mentioning that taking magic mushrooms recreationally is vastly different from psilocybin-assisted therapy. With the latter, ingestion of psilocybin is carefully controlled, from the dose right down to the environmental setting. All the risks are accounted for and various measures are put into place to minimize, if not totally eliminate these.
How Magic Mushrooms Work
Magic mushrooms work like LSD, another psychotropic drug. The actions and effects of both are similar to one another. However, people who have used both drugs say that between the two, psilocybin is milder, in terms of the length of trip and effects.
After taking magic mushrooms, the body converts psilocybin into psilocin. Psilocin interacts with your serotonin receptors, especially those that are located in the prefrontal cortex. This brain region is associated with perception, mood, and cognition. Hallucinogens like psilocybin mushrooms can also interact with the receptors in the brain region associated with arousal and panic.
Contrary to what some people may believe, magic mushrooms do not always cause visual and auditory hallucinations. Instead, a dose of psilocybin mushroom distorts a person's perception of people and objects within their immediate environment.
It takes about half an hour after taking magic mushrooms before their effects set in. Take note that the effects can vary from one person to another depending on factors like expectations, metabolism, past experiences, and magic mushroom potency.
Magic mushroom potency is influenced by different factors. These include mushroom species, origin, method of ingestion, and growing conditions.
Psilocybin mushroom effects and side effects
Aside from altering your perception of objects, people, time, and space, magic mushrooms can also cause a few effects and side effects. These include euphoria, paranoia, confusion, depersonalization, dizziness, drowsiness, muscle weakness, nausea, vomiting, dilated pupils, confusion, and hallucinations.
Although psilocybin mushrooms are considered to be one of the safest recreational drugs, taking mushrooms is not risk-free.
Magic mushrooms can cause long-term visual flashbacks long after using them. These flashbacks are upsetting and can last anywhere between a few weeks to years.
Some people who take shrooms may also experience symptoms that are similar to schizophrenia, including confusion, agitation, extreme fear, and psychosis. This can result in a trip to the emergency room.
But if there is one risk that you should be aware of before taking mushrooms, that would be the risk of ingesting poisonous mushrooms. There are plenty of mushroom species that look alike. And if you are foraging mushrooms, you need to learn how to properly identify magic mushrooms. Otherwise, you might ingest a poisonous mushroom. Poisonous mushrooms can cause stomach distress, organ damage, and even death.
Types of Magic Mushrooms
According to mycologists, there are close to 200 magic mushroom species. It is possible that there are more species that have not yet been discovered, growing in the wild.
Here is a brief list of some of the most common psilocybin mushroom species.
Also known as cubes, Psilocybe cubensis is one, if not the most popular magic mushroom species. The main reason behind that is that this mushroom species is easy to cultivate indoors compared to other magic mushrooms. Like cannabis, psilocybe cubensis has a few strains, including Penis Envy and Golden Teachers.
Liberty Caps (Psilocybe semilanceata) are considered to be one of the most widespread magic mushroom species. They are also one of the more potent ones. These mushrooms can be found growing in the wild, especially in meadows and grasslands with acidic soil fertilized by animal droppings.
Flying Saucer Mushrooms
Flying Saucer mushrooms are one of the strongest magic mushrooms that have become popular among people who microdose. This mushroom species is mostly confined to the American West Coast.
How to Take Magic Mushrooms
Magic mushrooms can be ingested in a variety of ways. One reason why people take mushrooms in multiple ways is because of their bitter taste. Additionally, eating mushrooms can cause stomach discomfort in some individuals.
Eating magic mushrooms
The simplest way to ingest magic mushrooms is to eat them. If you are taking magic mushrooms this way, it is a good idea to cut them into smaller pieces because of their fibrous texture.
Some people smoke psilocybin mushrooms for convenience. However, this method of consumption comes with a few risks. Like other combustibles like cannabis joints and cigarettes, there is a serious risk of getting harmful chemicals into your lungs.
Brewing mushroom tea
One of the most common complaints about magic mushrooms is their awful taste. You can minimize that downside by brewing shroom tea. Additionally, mushroom tea is milder in your stomach.
Making shroom juices and smoothies
Lemon tekking is a method of magic mushroom ingestion that entails soaking bits of shrooms into lemon juice. Aside from making shrooms more palatable, users say that the acidity of the citrus activates the psilocybin, making the effects set in faster.
Alternatively, you can simply add shrooms to your favorite smoothies. Make your smoothies as usual, using your chosen fruits and veggies, and then add a few pieces of magic mushrooms.
Magic mushroom edibles
If you are fond of sweets, you can infuse chocolates and other sweets with magic mushrooms. To do this, just add small pieces of shrooms into your favorite confections.
Other people prefer using magic mushrooms as ingredients for their favorite meals like pasta and pizzas. However, be warned that applying excessive heat to psilocybin mushrooms can cause them to lose their potency.
Magic Mushroom Dosage
With so many factors involved, getting the right magic mushroom dosage can be tricky. Every magic mushroom species has different levels of psilocybin. Furthermore, your physiological and psychological conditions can also affect the dosage you should take.
Because magic mushrooms are largely unprocessed, it can be difficult to determine their psilocybin content. As such, most people use weight as a means of dosing psilocybin mushrooms.
If you are microdosing magic mushrooms, you will need to consume between 0.1 to 0.5 grams. A low dose is between 0.5 and two grams while a moderate dose is around two to 3.5 grams. Anything higher than 3.5 grams is considered to be a high dose.
A heroic or committed dose usually runs above five grams. With such a high dose, you can experience anxiety, fear, and paranoia. But according to people who have used such a high magic mushroom dosage, it is a life-changing experience.
When it comes to magic mushroom dosing, be aware of a few factors that influence potency. For starters, be aware that the psilocybin content of magic mushrooms varies from one species to another. If you are using a potent species like Psilocybe azurescens, it is best to dial things back a little and go lower than your usual dosage.
Your physical and mental condition can also affect how you will react to a dose of magic mushrooms. For example, if you are more open to the experience, the more likely you will have a pleasant psychedelic trip. Conversely, if you try to take control of everything, you are more likely to get a bad trip.
Your chosen method of ingestion also affects the potency of shrooms. Cutting psilocybin mushrooms into smaller pieces or grinding them into powder makes them more accessible to your body. Drinking mushroom tea, juice, or smoothie also makes the magic mushroom effects set in faster.
Avoiding a Bad Trip
Bad trips shouldn't be a part of your psychedelic journey. However, a bad trip can happen, especially if you are unprepared and consume a large dose. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to keep yourself safe and avoid a bad trip.
For starters, be sure that you get your mushrooms from a reputable source. This will ensure that you are using magic mushrooms and not poisonous mushrooms.
Next, set your intentions. Be aware that psilocybin mushroom use is not a means to escape your problems. It also helps to get into the right frame of mind before using shrooms.
Plan your psychedelic trip well ahead of time. A mushroom trip can last between eight and 12 hours. It is helpful to find a trip sitter who will help attend to your needs and keep you safe for that span of time.
Find the right location for your psilocybin mushroom trip, preferably one that is safe and peaceful. Be sure to remove anything in that area that can cause accidents or harm.
If you do experience something upsetting, know that your bad trip will end. Let go of your tendency to take control and let go.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are magic mushrooms safe?
According to the 2017 Global Drug Survey, magic mushrooms are one of the safest recreational drugs. Around 0.2% of 10,000 people who have used shrooms needed emergency treatment. However, magic mushrooms can cause a few side effects like elevated heart rates. Additionally, there have been some people who have mistakenly ingested poisonous mushroom species, thinking that they are psilocybin-containing mushrooms.
Are magic mushrooms legal?
In most parts of the world, magic mushrooms are still classified as Schedule I substances. This means that they are illegal. However, there are places like Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Oakland, California that have decriminalized shrooms.
Do magic mushrooms have health benefits?
Although magic mushrooms have been traditionally viewed as recreational drugs, researchers have identified a few potential therapeutic uses for them, including depression, smoking cessation, substance abuse treatment, and cluster headaches treatment.
Can you get addicted to magic mushrooms?
Magic mushrooms do not cause physical or psychological dependence, making it practically impossible to become addicted to them.
However, continued use of shrooms can lead to dependence. Essentially, that means that you will need to increase your dosage to get the same effects.
What are the long-term effects of using magic mushrooms?
Due to the small amount of clinical research, scientists are still uncertain about the long-term effects of taking mushrooms regularly.