General Facts about Psilocybin Mushrooms (Magic Mushrooms)

 

Brief Description

 

There are more than 180 species of mushrooms that contain the psychedelic compounds psilocybin or psilocin. They have a long history of use in Mesoamerica in spiritual and religious rituals and are currently one of the most popular recreational psychedelics in the United States and Europe.

 

Mushrooms have been used in therapeutic settings to treat a wide variety of ailments and disorders including cluster headaches, obsessive-compulsive disorders, anxiety, depression, and addiction.

 

Magic mushrooms are illegal and categorized as a Schedule I controlled substance in the United States, though recently, the FDA and DEA have allowed some small, highly controlled human studies on their potential for use in medical and psychiatric settings.

 

Chemical Name and Structure

 

Psilocybin

 

IUPAC name: [3-(2-Dimethylaminoethyl)-1H-indol-4-yl] dihydrogen phosphate;

Chemical structure: C12H17N2O4P

 

Psilocin:

IUPAC name: 4-hydroxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine

Chemical structure: C12H16N2O

 

Common Name/Nicknames

 

Magic mushrooms, Shrooms, Psychedelic Mushrooms, Boomers, Caps, Buttons, Mushies, Magics, Simple Simon, Silly Putty, Musk, Sacred mushrooms

 

Can psilocybin be detected in a drug test?

 

Psilocybin mushrooms and their metabolites are not included in most standard drug screens; however they are sometimes included in extended drug screens.

A Brief History of Psilocybin Mushrooms

Timeline

From Erowid

 

1000 - 500 BCE: Central American cultures build temples to mushroom gods and carve "mushroom stones" found in Mexico & Guatamala.
 

c. 290 CE: Chang Hua's "Record of the Investigation of Things" (Po-wu chih) describes what may be hallucinogenic mushrooms in Chin Dynasty China.   


13th Century: In his treatise "De Vegetabilibus", Albertus Magnus cautions against eating mushrooms that "stop up in the head the mental passages of the creatures [that eat them] and bring on insanity".
 

13th - 15th Century Vienna Codex depicts the ritual use of mushrooms by the Mixtec gods, showing Piltzintecuhtli and 7 other gods holding mushrooms in their hands. These were most likely psilocybin-containing mushrooms. (The Wondrous Mushroom)   
 

16th Century: Xochipilli statue carved. Aztec statue depicts the Prince of Flowers decorated with 6 psychoactive plants: mushrooms, tobacco, morning glory, sinicuichi, cacahuaxochitl, and one unidentified.   
 

Jun 15, 1521: The use of hallucinogenic mushrooms and peyote are driven underground as use of "non-alcohol" intoxicants is forbidden by Europeans in Mexico. Catholic priests punish the use of entheogens by native people.   
 

16th Century: Dutch physician Pieter van Foreest describes a case of a woman who was "flung into violent convulsions and the Riscus sardonicus [fixed grin, or uncontrollable laughter] by eating mushrooms".
 

16th Century: Codex Magliabecchiano written and illustrated, with at least one depiction of teonanácatl.  
 

1560: Spanish priest Bernardino de Sahagún writes in his Florentine Codex about the use of peyote and hallucinogenic teonanacatl mushrooms by the Aztecs. He estimates peyote has been in use since at least 300 B.C.
 

1772: Physician W. Heberden writes to the Gentlemen's Magazine of a family eating mushrooms, which rendered them "all much disordered". The man "was unable to shut his eyes and was so giddy he could hardly stand; the woman felt the same symptoms in a more violent degree; and the child, who had but just tasted them, had convulsive agitations in its arms."  
 

Oct 3, 1799: First psychedelic mushroom experience/ingestion documented in a scholarly journal takes place in London. Dr. Everard Brande attends a family whose members, upon eating wild mushrooms, were seized with visions and laughter. The mushrooms were examined and determined to be Agaricus glutinosus, later reclassified as Psilocybe semilanceata (Liberty Caps).

 

Mid 1800s: Xochipilli statue discovered by Europeans in central Mexico.   
 

Aug 1904: American mycologist Franklin Sumner Earle (1856-1929) is the first to collect identified Psilocybe cubensis (originally designated Stropharia cubensis) in Cuba.   
 

Sep 1914: First hand experience report of intentional psilocybin-containing mushroom ingestion published in Science magazine, including detailed descriptions of visual effects, uncontrollable joking and laughter, and a rough timeline.
 

1936: Blas Pablo Reko confirms the existence of teonanacatl as the psilocybin mushroom, refuting the scholarly misunderstanding of that time that teonanacatl was peyote.   
 

1938: Schultes and Reko travel to Mexico and collect specimens of several psychoactive mushroom species which are deposited in the Harvard herbarium.   
 

1938: American anthropologist Jean Basset Johnson and his wife Irmgard Weitlaner become the first "modern" white people to witness a mushroom velada (healing ceremony) in Huautla, Mexico.  

 

1939: Richard Evans Schultes publishes a paper describing teonanacatl as a specific psilocybin-containing mushroom. (Probably the first academic release of this fact.)   
 

1953: Amateur mycologist R. Gordon Wasson visits Oaxaca Mexico and sits in on a mushroom velada. In 1954 returns to Huatla with Alan Richardson a photographer, to 'complete' his research of mind altering mushrooms. He returns again in 1955 with Richardson for the fateful velada with Maria Sabina.   
 

Jun 29, 1955: R. Gordon Wasson and photographer Allan Richardson participate in a mushroom velada led by Maria Sabina.   
 

May 13, 1957: Wasson publishes an article about psychoactive mushrooms in Life Magazine, the first popular media coverage of their existence.   
 

1958: Psilocybin is first isolated from psychoactive mushrooms by Albert Hofmann working at Sandoz Pharmaceutical in Switzerland.
 

1959: Albert Hofmann first publishes the synthesis of psilocybin.
 

1960: Sandoz Pharmaceutical begins producing psilocybin pills. They contain 2 mg of psilocybin per small pink pill.   
 

Aug 1960: Timothy Leary first ingests psilocybin-containing mushrooms in Cuernavaca, Mexico.  
 

Oct 1960: Timothy Leary first tries pure psilocybin.
 

1960-1961: Timory Leary and Richard Alpert begin a series of experiments with Harvard graduate students, using pure psilocybin.
 

1960s: Hofmann gives synthetic psilocybin to Maria Sabina.   
 

Apr 1962: Good Friday Experiment - 20 students at Boston University participate in a psilocybin ritual/experiment.  
 

1963: Leary and Alpert were dismissed from their academic positions at Harvard due, at least in part, to their continued experiments with students and psychedelics.  
 

May 28, 1963: Weil and Russin write a scathing critique of Leary and Alpert's work in the Harvard Crimson: Far from exercising the caution that characterizes the published statements of most scientists, Leary and Alpert, in their papers and speeches, have been given to making the kind of pronouncement about their work that one associates with quacks.
 

Oct 24, 1968: Possession of Psilocybin & Psilocin are banned federally in the U.S. after the passage of the Staggers-Dodd Bill (Public Law 90-639) which amended the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.   
 

Oct 27, 1970: The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act is passed. Part II of this is the Controlled Substance Act (CSA) which defines a scheduling system for drugs. It places most of the known hallucinogens (LSD, psilocybin, psilocin, mescaline, peyote, cannabis, & MDA) in Schedule I. It places coca, cocaine and injectable methamphetamine in Schedule II. Other amphetamines and stimulants, including non-injectable methamphetamine are placed in Schedule III.   
 

Oct 29-31, 1976: International Conference on Psychotropic Fungi    
 

1960-1977: Psilocybin is studied as a psychotherapeutic medicine through the 1960s and

 

1970s. FDA approved research with humans ends in 1977, not to be continued until the late 1990s.   
 

Oct 27-30, 1977: Second International Conference on Hallucinogenic Mushrooms  
 

Late 1990's: Research with psilocybin begins to see a small resurgence.   
 

Jun 1999: An improved synthesis method for psilocybin is published.   
 

2002: Possession and sale of psilocybin containing mushrooms becomes legal in the U.K. due to a statement from the Home Office that they are not illegal as long as they have not been prepared in any way.   
 

Jun 5, 2002: Japan. Psilocybin mushrooms become illegal to sell in Japan. Although already illegal to eat, Japanese head shops had previously been allowed to sell mushrooms.   
 

2003: Mushroom selling stalls and storefronts pop up around England, especially in London.   
 

Jul 2004: The British government announces that they have "re-interpreted" the law and are now declaring the sale of fresh psilocybin mushrooms a "preparation" and therefore illegal. Some shops close, but other remain open and some are shut down by police. Eventually charges are dropped and some shops remain open.   
 

Apr 7, 2005: The British government passes a new Drugs Bill expanding police powers and explicitly making fresh mushrooms illegal.   
 

Jul 18, 2005: New British ban on psilocybin mushrooms goes into effect.   
 

May 2006: Survey results published in Neurology show that both psilocybin-containing mushrooms and LSD may reduce severity and frequency of cluster headaches.  
 

Jul 11, 2006: Research shows psilocybin can induce mystical experiences.
 

Apr 29, 2008: Albert Hofmann dies.   
 

Dec 6, 2008: Entheogenesis Australis Symposium     
 

Brief History

 

Archaeological evidence from the Sahara desert suggests that humans have been using hallucinogenic mushrooms for 7,000 years or more.  Mushrooms are represented in prehistoric art across many different geographic regions. In most cases, they’re thought to be religiously symbolic, often in the context of rights of passage ceremonies. If our ancestors did use mushrooms, such a powerful experience almost certainly would have dramatically influenced prehistoric culture, from art to religion to social values that regulated everyday life.

 

Some have gone even further. Terence McKenna, for one, put forth the so-called “Stoned Ape Hypothesis”, where he posited that early humans or pre-human hominids ingested mushrooms, leading to evolutionary benefits including advancements in human intelligence. However, it should be noted that few in the scientific community take this hypothesis seriously, citing, for one, that the number of assumptions McKenna makes cause the theory to be relatively implausible.

 

Extensive accounts of psilocybin use in pre-Columbian history comes from the Mayan and Aztec cultures of Mesoamerica, namely in Mexico and Guatemala. After conquering these areas in the 15th and 16th centuries, the Spanish forbade magic mushroom use by indigenous peoples, regarding it as a savage and uncivilized cultural practice. But, like a bunch of teenagers hiding their stashes from mom and dad and rebelling against The Man, the indigenous shamans ignored Spanish law in secret for over 400 years to preserve their shared cultural heritage with these mushrooms.

 

The first reliable account in the West of “intoxication” with magic mushrooms came in 1799 when some asshole fed his four kids Psilocybe semilanceata, a species of hallucinogenic mushroom, after mistaking them for edible mushrooms that sounded good for breakfast that day.

 

The famous Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman (who also accidentally invented LSD) first isolated psilocybin in the lab in 1957 from Psilocybe mexicana, a species of mushroom found primarily in Central America. A year later, it was produced synthetically for the first time.

 

Gordon Wasson, former vice president of J. P. Morgan & Company, apparently had a fascination that turned into an obsession with psilocybin mushrooms. In 1955 he traveled to Oaxaca, Mexico, to meet Maria Sabina, a member of the indigenous Mazatec Indian tribe and a mushroom shaman. She introduced Wasson to magic mushrooms and mystic shamanism. On his first shroom trip, he reported feeling “as if his soul had been scooped out of his body.”

 

Wasson effectively kick started the magic mushroom movement in the West when, in 1957, Time Magazine published his photo essay titled “Seeking the Magic Mushroom,” in which he detailed his experiences with Sabina and magic mushrooms.

 

After reading of Wasson’s experiences and then traveling to Oaxaca to experience magic mushrooms for themselves, Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert, researchers at Harvard University, started the Harvard Psilocybin Project which, of course, got them fired shortly thereafter. They did what any jobless academic would have done in 1962: they started dropping shrooms and encouraging everyone they met to do the same. Magic mushrooms were quickly adopted into the 1960s counterculture.

 

In 1971, psilocybin was listed in the UN’s Convention on Psychotropic Substances as a Schedule I drug in the United States, making it illegal for all purposes. However, psilocybin mushrooms were not part of the UN convention, which, to this day, allows countries who have signed the convention (essentially a treaty) to regulate mushrooms that naturally contain psilocybin as they see fit.

 

Today, psilocybin mushrooms are illegal in most countries, but they are legal in their fresh forms in a few countries such as Austria. Fresh psilocybin mushrooms were outlawed in the UK in 2005 and then in the Netherlands, of all places, in 2008.

 

In the United States, while illegal at the federal level, psilocybin mushrooms were deemed legal to grow and possess in New Mexico in 2005. In 1978, the Florida supreme court ruled that harvesting wild psilocybin mushrooms was effectively legal until the state legislature says otherwise. No Florida laws have been passed since regulating the harvest of wild-picked mushrooms containing psilocybin.

 

With the exception of three states, psilocybin mushrooms spores are perfectly legal to possess in the United States as the spores do not contain psilocybin or psilocin, the chemicals that are specifically regulated by federal law. However, although the spores are legal, growing mushrooms from the spores is still considered illicit activity.

 

In just the past few years, regulatory bodies such as the DEA and FDA have loosened rules about using psilocybin in controlled research trials more so than any other psychedelic. Exciting new research on psilocybin as both a therapeutic tool and as a part of personal/spiritual development methods has been published and continues to be done today.



 

Psilocybin Mushroom Use Statistics

 

  • Psilocybin mushrooms are the most commonly used psychedelics among people ages 34 and younger.

  • A 2012 study of 409 university students in the American northeast found that nearly 30% of those surveyed had tried mushrooms at least once.

  • A report from data collected in the 2010 NSDUH study show that, compared to other drugs, hallucinogens — which, according the NSDUH, includes LSD, PCP, peyote, mescaline, psilocybin mushrooms, and MDMA (ecstasy) — were used by about 1.2% of the population of people 12 years of age and older within the past month. Interestingly, prescription “psychotherapeutics” are reportedly used illegally at a rate nearly 6 times that of hallucinogens.

  • Surveys in 12 EU member states found that people aged 15– 24 years old use of magic mushrooms ranges from less than 1% to 8%.

  • In the UK, almost 340,000 people aged 16–59 ever used magic mushrooms in the last year as of 2004/2005, right before they were made completely illegal in the UK.

 

The Pharmacology of Psilocybin

Pharmacological properties

The threshold dose for feeling the effects of psilocybin is typically in the 3 to 5 mg range, though it varies across individual users. A moderate dose in the 12 to 20 mg range, taken orally, typically produces a trip that lasts 3 to 6 hours.

 

Psilocybin is metabolized into psilocin, both which appear to be equally active in producing hallucinogenic effects.

 

Psilocybin is about 100 times less potent than LSD and 10 times less potent than mescaline.

Interaction with Neuronal Receptors

Psilocybin and its metabolite psilocin primarily interact with serotonin receptors in the brain. It has an especially high affinity for the serotonin 2A subtype receptors. In contrast to LSD, psilocybin does not interact directly with dopamine (D2) receptors, but there may be some indirect effects on these receptors.

 

In rodents, psilocybin shows strong interaction with receptors in hub regions of the brain which integrate sensory experiences. This could, therefore, explain effects such as synesthesia and altered sensory experiences during mushroom trips.  

Toxicology of Psilocybin

Psilocybin is well-tolerated among healthy individuals. Hormone levels, liver function and toxicity, and blood sugar all appear to be unaffected by mushroom use.  Complications that have been reported appear to arise in vulnerable individuals under uncontrolled conditions and at high doses. Adverse effects, like “bad trips”, can almost always be managed with interpersonal support and without pharmaceutical intervention.

Adverse Interactions with Other Drugs

Not much systematic data are out there about the adverse drug-drug interactions with psilocybin, however anecdotal reports from emergency rooms suggests you abstain from alcohol while tripping (it’s best to abstain from alcohol while using any psychedelic).

 

Also, since psilocybin is a potent serotonin agonist, it’s best to avoid using it while on any medications that alter the serotonin system, for example, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressant like Prozac.

Tripping on Psilocybin Mushrooms: What to Expect

Preparing for a trip on magic mushrooms

 

Set and setting are especially important considerations to make prior to a magic mushroom trip. It is recommended that you follow the guidelines in Dr. James Fadiman’s book, The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide, especially if it will be your first time tripping. This includes things like having a “guide” that you trust and is familiar with the range of reactions people have while tripping, set aside enough time in a location where you feel comfortable, and getting into a stable and calm state of mind prior to your magic mushroom experience.

 

Psilocybin mushrooms can be ingested in their whole form. They’re typically dried and most everyone agrees they don’t taste good. An alternatively method is to make a tea with the mushrooms. You can chop up the mushrooms and, for about 20 minutes, boil them in water which you then drink. The mushrooms will still have some active psilocybin, so you can eat those as well. Some people like to put them in peanut butter or Nutella to mask the taste.

What to expect on a magic mushroom trip

The canonical effects of magic mushrooms are typically felt about 1 to 1.5 hours after ingesting a dose. A typical trip on a moderate dose of psilocybin mushrooms (12-25 mg) includes increased intensity of emotional experiences, increased introspection and altered psychological functioning in the form of “hypnagogic experiences” — that is, a sort of transitory state between wakefulness and sleep. It is commonly described as a waking dream state, and brain imaging studies show that a mushroom trip is neurologically similar to dreaming.

 

Perceptual changes such as illusions, synaesthesia (mixing sensory modalities; e.g., hearing colors, tasting sounds), emotional changes, and a distorted sense of time are all characteristic of a mushroom trip as well. These effects are typically felt around 1 to 1.5 hours after orally ingesting a psilocybin mushroom dose.

 

You’ll begin to notice a change in your perception of the world around you. You may experiences changes in your visual perception such as halos around lights and objects and geometric patterns when your eyes are closed.


Your thoughts and emotions will also start to change. It’s not uncommon to have a sense of openness to thoughts and feelings you tend to avoid in your everyday life. A sense of wonder and delight with the world around you, the people in your life, and your thoughts is also quite common, along with a sense of peace and connection with the world.

 

Strong emotions are often experienced, good and bad. It’s recommended that you don’t resist these emotions in either direction, but rather let them work their own course. Many who do report strong negative emotions also report a simultaneous sense of calm acceptance and detachment from them, especially if they remind themselves that the emotions are temporary.

 

Physical side effects can vary from individual to individual and include changes in heart rate (up or down), changes in blood pressure (up or down), nausea, increased tendon reflexes, tremors, dilated pupils, restlessness or arousal, and troubles with coordinated movement.

 

One study also found that psilocybin can cause headaches in healthy individuals that can last for up to a day. None of the subjects reported severe headaches, however, and psilocybin is actually used by some to treat a clinical condition called cluster headaches (see therapeutic uses section below).

Bad Trips

Anyone curious about trying magic mushrooms for the first time will inevitably worry some point about having a “bad trip” — dysphoric hallucinations, uncontrollable paranoia, and just generally “freaking the fuck out” are usually some the most common worries. To be sure, bad trip happens, but there are a lot of things you can do to greatly reduce the likelihood of a bad trip happening in the first place.

 

For example, special attention should be paid to set and setting, as mentioned above, but there are a few other personal variables you should consider before embarking on a mushroom trip.

 

A 2012 study on 261 people given psilocybin found that the following factors were related to having a “good trip”:

 

  • Being high on the scale for the personality trait of absorption; that is, generally being able to be absorbed in your mental imagery

  • Being in an emotionally excitable and active state immediately before you take the drug

  • Having experienced few psychological problems in past recent weeks

 

Conversely, they found that the following factors were related to “bad trips”:

  • Being high in emotional excitability

  • Returning to a stage of helpless infancy

  • Being in an experimental setting involving positron emission tomography (PET) scanning — what the fuck? Yeah, I don’t know. I guess people freak out when they have to go into that machine while tripping.

Magic Mushroom Myths

Magic Mushrooms cause brain bleeding, stomach bleeding, and/or Kidney Failure

A “bleeding brain” would be diagnosed as a stroke, hemorrhage, or aneurysm. There is absolutely no evidence of this ever happening after ingesting psilocybin mushrooms, nor is there any evidence to suggest that magic mushrooms cause stomach bleeding. A report in 1981 found that the two most common complications with mushroom use were dilated pupils and overly sensitive reflexes. Other literature reviews have found no complications of mushroom use in healthy individuals.

 

As for kidney problems, the issue is actually a mushroom identification problem. The hallucinogenic mushroom species Psilocybe semilanceata does not cause kidney issues, but mushrooms in the family Cortinarius are harmful to the kidneys and they’re often mistaken for P. semilanceata.

Shrooms make you go insane

Researchers have drawn similarities between psilocybin mushroom trips and psychotic episodes like those found in schizophrenia, but in almost all cases, this is temporary (hence, the term “trip”).

 

(It is worth noting, here, that classic psychedelics can activate underlying psychosis, if the individual is pre-disposed to schizophrenia because of family history - those who have a family history of schizophrenia must be extremely cautious when considering the use of these substances)

 

Even people who are admitted to the emergency room after taking magic mushrooms return to their normal physical and mental state within a matter of hours.

 

In fact, a recent large, population-wide study found a reduced likelihood of psychological distress and suicidality among classic psychedelic (LSD, magic mushrooms, etc.) users.

Shrooms are poisonous

Whether this myth is “true” or not depends somewhat on your definition of “poisonous.” If you categorize a chemical substance as poisonous that induces an intoxicated state, alters your state of consciousness, and causes some physiological changes to occur, then sure, magic mushrooms are poisonous. But if that’s the case, then every single drug is poisonous — alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, caffeine, etc. A narrower definition of a poisonous substance, however, would not categorize mushrooms as such.

 

It’s important to differentiate mushroom poisoning from non-hallucinogenic species and “intoxication” with hallucinogenic species. Magic mushrooms are not toxic and cause no known major health effects. There are non-hallucinogenic species that can cause you to become physically ill and are toxic enough to cause major damage or, in rare cases, death. Proper identification of mushroom species, therefore, is obviously very important.

Therapeutic Uses of Psilocybin Mushrooms

A number of preclinical trials in the 1960s and 1970s suggested a promising role for psilocybin and other psychedelics in treating a number of disorders, including cluster headaches, mood disorders, and addiction.

 

Since the federal government reclassified psilocybin as a Schedule I drug in the 1970s, research on its therapeutic effects has been virtually non-existent up until recently. Numerous anecdotal accounts of psilocybins therapeutic effects have finally caught the attention of medical professionals and researchers and studies are beginning to be funded and published supporting these earlier findings.

 

Here are a few ways in which psilocybin has been used in modern medical settings.

Psilocybin in the Treatment of Cluster headaches

Cluster headaches are often described as the most painful and disruptive type of headache to have. They are more intense than migraine headaches, but they typically don’t last as long. Attacks at night are often more painful and intense than daytime cluster headache attacks, but both obviously interfere in a person’s life significantly.

 

To date, no systematic studies have been published that describe the treatment potential of psilocybin for headaches, but myriad anecdotal reports have caught the attention of the medical community. In the mid-2000s, medical professionals began taking notice of psilocybin and LSD as possible treatments for cluster headaches after some of their patients reported remission of their condition following recreational psychedelic use (and subsequent self-medication).

 

Here is just small sample of the anecdotal reports on psilocybin’s effects as a treatment for cluster headaches:

 

Psilocybin in the Treatment of Mood and Anxiety Disorders

Anecdotal evidence has pointed towards psilocybin (and other psychedelics) as a treatment for mood disorders like depression and anxiety. Dr. James Fadiman has been collecting such anecdotes for several years now and the overwhelming majority of them have been positive.

 

Recently, the federal government has allowed some very small, highly controlled studies to be conducted on the therapeutic potential of psilocybin on mood disorders. In 2011, a small pilot study was conducted to test the effects of psilocybin on depression and end-of-life anxiety in terminal cancer patients. Patients in this study had advanced-stage cancer and a clinical diagnosis of acute stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, anxiety disorder due to cancer, or adjustment disorder with anxiety. They were given 0.2 mg/kg of psilocybin (a moderate dose of about 10 mg to 20 mg, depending on the person’s weight) or niacin in a double-blind, randomized control trial. The researcher observed significant decreases after psilocybin treatment on measures of depression and anxiety up to 6 months after the trial.

 

Psilocybin treatment has also been shown to successfully reduce symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) in a small study of patients who didn’t respond to conventional serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SRI) drug therapy. In this study, all patients showed a reduction in OCD symptoms between a 23% and 100%.

Psilocybin in the Treatment of Addiction

The so-called classic hallucinogens were used in preclinical trials to treat addiction in the 1950s and 60s with promising results, but again, once many of these psychedelics were made illegal in the US and most of Europe, research into the use of them in a therapeutic context came virtually to a halt. But recent years have seen a resurgence in using psilocybin and other psychedelics (namely, ibogaine and sometimes LSD) as therapeutic tools to treat addiction.

 

Psilocybin as part of an assisted treatment plan has shown promise in treating alcoholism in non-clinical trials in a recent study from 2015. Significant reductions in drinking and abstinence from drinking were reported after psilocybin administration as part of a treatment program.

 

Psilocybin also appears to be potential tool in helping people quit smoking tobacco. In a recent trial, 2 to 3 treatment sessions with psilocybin as part of a larger cognitive-behavioral therapy program for smoking cessation had an 80% success rate with smoking cessation in study participants (12 out of 15 subjects). By comparison, conventional smoking cessation method success rates — gum, patches, cold turkey, etc. — have about a 35% success rate.

 

Interestingly, in another smoking cessation study, quitting success rates were significantly correlated with intensity measures of mystical experience and ratings of personal meaning and spiritual significance during psilocybin trip sessions.



 

Magic Mushrooms in Personal and Spiritual Development

 

In early trials where hallucinogens were given to healthy adults under supportive conditions, many participants reported lasting beneficial changes in their personality, their behavior, and their values and attitudes., Anecdotal reports in lieu of systematic studies have since corroborated these initial findings as people often report a greater appreciation of music, art, and nature along with greater tolerance for others and increased creativity and imagination for quite some time after a mushroom trip.

 

More recent studies have also mirrored these early findings. About 40% of participants in several laboratory studies of psilocybin reported positive, long-term changes in aesthetic experience and their relationship with nature.

 

Another study in 2011 found that for up to more than a year after a single experience with psilocybin mushrooms, personality measures of openness remained significantly elevated in study participants. These researchers speculate that the mystical experience often imparted by a mushroom trip is likely the key even that instigates such enduring changes.

 

They define a mystical experience as “feelings of unity and interconnectedness with all people and things, a sense of sacredness, feelings of peace and joy, a sense of transcending normal time and space, ineffability, and an intuitive belief that the experience is a source of objective truth about the nature of reality.”

 

Interestingly, the more intense the mystical experiences a person reports on a psilocybin trip, the greater the positive, long-term changes they see.

 

These subjective effects — such as feelings of interconnectedness — of magic mushrooms are likely a result of their ability to decrease the interconnectivity of integration hubs in the brain. That is, psilocybin allows for more “cross talk” between brain regions that is typically kept separate, which, researchers speculate, enables a state of “unconstrained cognition.” Many of the same brain activity patterns are also observed during various states of meditation as well.


 

Mushroom experience/trip reports: