What are the benefits and risks of psilocybin and magic mushrooms?
Magic mushrooms can easily be found all over the world. Almost every culture in history has used it. Be it for medical purposes or spiritual uses, using magic mushrooms have been a controversial topic.
Some people harvest the mushrooms solely for the pleasurable feeling of euphoria. For others, they use mushrooms as a means to learn and gain new knowledge. Previously unscientific tales of the benefits of taking magic mushrooms are now being supported by scientific research.
It turns out; there’s so much that we should know about this fungus. So in this article, we’ll explain what are the benefits and risks of psilocybin and magic mushrooms.
What is psilocybe cubensis?
Psilocybe cubensis is a breed of psychedelic mushroom. Its main active compounds are psilocin and psilocybin. Psilocybin is a class of hallucinogens that comes from a specific group of fungi. These grow in some regions in the US. Although other parts of the world like Mexico and Europe have them as well. There are more than 100 species of mushrooms that contain psilocybin.
Facts about psilocybin:
- It posses both positive, harmful physical and psychological reactions
- It is not chemically addictive
- Can cause a psychotic experience
- Users with a family history of schizophrenia or mental illnesses will likely face adverse psychiatric effects
- There are no negative reactions once someone stops using it.
Other names for psilocybin mushrooms are magic mushrooms, shrooms, golden caps and golden tops. Psilocybin mushrooms belong to the Hymenogastracea family of fungi. The previous name for it is Stropharia cubensis. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services has classed psilocybin as one of the most popular psychedelics.
The color of the mushrooms is cinnamon red to a golden brown. It’ll change to slightly purple and blue when bruised due to the oxidation of its psilocin content. Depending on the type of mushrooms, the caps will planar and their gills will become adnate to adnexed. The gills are closely spaced and filled with purple spores that will sprout in an ideal substrate.
You can find magic mushrooms in tropical and subtropical surroundings. They prefer humid grasslands to grow well. It can also be found in environments that have 85 percent or above humidity. Or where grass-eating animals like cows and horses live. This is because cubensis can grow in these animals’ manure that has zero to minimum stomach acid. These animals will eat mushrooms with spores on it. And the spores will sprout in the animal’s warm and moist stomach.
Personal-scale farming of psilocybe cubensis spans from the quite straightforward and small scale to advanced methods. Advanced farming requires an investment of money, time and knowledge.
How potent is psilocybe cubensis?
Every kind of magic mushroom strain has its powers and effects. Once you use it, you’ll reveal its secrets.
The potency of a psilocybe cubensis hallucinogens depends on a few factors such as:
- the breed
- the origin of the species
- growing setting
- harvesting time
- will it be consumed directly or dried out
Farmers have seen different types of flexibility and physical appearances in growth. And of course the variance in potency.
The psilocybe cubensis strains of magic mushrooms only have average potency. Whereas the Mazatapec magic mushrooms in Mexico are very potent. They can give an intense psychedelic experience. One of the many reasons why it is popular amongst the Oaxaca people as spiritual enhancers.
What are the effects of psilocybin?
Psilocybin, being a potent psychedelic can produce different results. Factors like dosage, previous experience, and expectations can yield different outcomes. But the most common effects are hallucinations and mood changes. In extreme situations, dosing on psilocybin leads to impaired judgment and people behaving recklessly.
Ingesting psilocybin triggers a state of hyper-connectedness, and causes the ‘trip’ experience described by users. The ‘high’ sensation as some people call it is brought about mainly by the compound psilocin. Which comes from psilocybin after being consumed. What happens is, psilocin binds itself to our brain’s serotonin receptors, acting as an agonist. This activates the receptors, stimulating an effect that is similar to a rush of serotonin.
Psilocybin effects are mainly affected by dose
Each person can have a different experience when ingesting hallucinogens such as psilocybin. Typically you can feel the effects after 35 minutes, which lasts four to six hours. During this time, people can go through ‘peak’ stages where the results of the drug are at its strongest. The range of effects will vary greatly depending on the dosage.
Low to medium dose
At lower to medium dosage, people tend to act playful and seem carefree. People have claimed that colors seem more vivid. And their vision and perception tends to move in a more dreamlike state. Also, users expressed magnified emotions, as in being more connected to their most profound thoughts.
Physically, your body might feel heavy and weak at times, making it difficult to walk. Unusual body sensations are also common, with some people feeling cold and hot interchangeably. Most people have a spiritual awakening at this stage. And there are studies showing individuals who participated in psilocybin usage became more reflective of their thoughts. Making them more attuned to their surroundings.
On higher to mega dosages, uses have reported having out-of-body experiences. Also, the effects are more intense. Deeper hallucinations that can lead to delirium, anxiety and depression are possible at this stage. Your most primal, dark, malevolent ideas can manifest. Bringing out your most primitive thoughts. Confusion is also pretty common, and it becomes hard to talk. On the wild side, heavy dosages can lead to hearing voices or the ‘talking to aliens or god’ situation. In other words, the side effects are like a complete catharsis.
Physical effects go extreme as well. Some of them involve shaking, trembling to vomit. High-dosage users are at risk of going into psychotic episodes. So this level is dangerous and not for the faint of heart.
Studies on psilocybin’s effect on the brain
Magic mushrooms have been around for a while. And it’s usage stretches back several millennia. There is evidence that shows ancient Central and South American civilizations worshipped hallucinogenic plants. The Aztecs call them the ‘flesh of the gods. And various paintings of mushroom-shaped humanoids are present within the caves in Tassili Plateau.
Hallucinogens have an intriguing and turbulent history; unsurprisingly, there have been so many studies. In recent years, researchers use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). To take a peek on what goes on inside the brain during a psilocybin study.
Researchers had 15 volunteers scanned with fMRI after taking psilocybin. What they found is that the brain scans resemble people who are dreaming. In this state, the mind goes into an intercommunicating mode. The brain creates neural connections that it usually wouldn’t do, becoming less constrained. This correlates with users’ description of how the drug allows them to experience a psychedelic state after digesting.
What are the benefits?
Conventional medicine, with all its advancement in various fields, including psychiatry, are still limited in treatment options. This gives rise to considerations on alternative treatments, with one hallucinogenic mushroom taking the spotlight.
In controlled environments, the study of psilocybin and magic mushrooms looks promising. Technically psilocybin is still labelled as a Schedule I drug. But there are efforts to change that by some US cities by decriminalizing the drug.
Psilocybin for patients
The Controlled Substances Act limits the amount of research performed on Schedule I drugs. But limited studies in the US and abroad have shown that psilocybin is effective in combating anxiety and depression. Especially in patients that are terminally ill.
A relatively recent study showed a group of critical-stage cancer patients improve their mood and attitude after taking psilocybin. Another case involved using psilocybin and psychotherapy in treating distressed patients who were facing death due to critical illnesses.
The positive effects lasted 26 weeks. The participants felt more anxiolytic, improved attitudes and a better overall quality of life.
It’s not just patients with moods and depression issues that have benefited from using psilocybin. Obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms were reduced by at least 25% on the Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale. From 8 out of 9 patients in one limited study.
Psilocybin leads people to new experiences
Magic mushrooms can have a life-altering effect on some individuals, and these experiences can last up to 14 months. A controlled study for a group of people resulted in the participants having transcendent experiences. They felt the experience was profoundly life-changing. It was like they suddenly felt more open to new experiences and felt a rush of joy.
It’s worth noting that this study was in a controlled environment. The researchers ensured that the room they used was conducive to a calm surrounding. They needed the participants to feel relaxed to avoid a ‘bad trip’. In short, users should properly administer psilocybin hallucinogens. And without abuse, psilocybin hallucinogens can have a positive effect on healthy individuals.
Psilocybin potentially treats addictions
Ironically, something classified as a Schedule I has the potential to cure addictions. But in a study from John Hopkins University, researchers discovered that using psilocybin in therapy helped smokers. As a result, they were able to abstain for up to a year. The lead researcher from that study also concluded that other addictions like alcohol and cocaine are potentially treatable with psilocybin.
The ability for psilocybin to show addicts the larger picture is the reason why it works. It shakes them out of their repetitive and addictive behavior. At least that’s a general theory.
Ego dissolution means heightened awareness. When you experience this, your mind feels one with the world. But you’re not just more aware; you have a stronger connection as well. You have the opportunity to change your whole outlook on life. It doesn’t matter what you’re going through in life. Is it depression? Anxiety? Or just normal stress?
Psilocybin cuts through all that noise and brings out the real you. Without constraints and judgments. Which makes it possible to reinvent yourself in so many positive ways. As long as you’re looking for a change, ego dissolution can unravel the mysteries of your mind. And allow you to make it happen.
Though many people in the US have taken magic mushrooms, it doesn’t mean it’s 100 percent safe. Like LSD, magic mushrooms can cause high intense effects so treat it with proper precautions.
Some of the risks from taking magic mushrooms are:
Poisonous magic mushrooms
When taking magic mushrooms, one of the worst-case scenarios is ingesting a poisonous fungus. Which is toxic and dangerous. However, this often happens to people who harvest the mushrooms in the wild by themselves. The symptoms of mushroom poisoning include confusion, weakness and delirium. It’s common to assume this as a ‘bad trip’. If you suspect you ingested poisonous mushrooms, seek medical help immediately.
Increased heart rate
Many have reported that magic mushrooms increase their heart rate to abnormal levels. Even though they don’t have a heart problem. It can increase the heart rate from 150 bpm to 160 bpm in normal dosage. When mixed with other drugs, your heart rate can rise to an even higher threshold, putting you at risk. Your heart rate should go back to normal once the effects lessen. But it’s a cause for concern if it doesn’t.
High blood pressure
Users with a history of high blood pressure should avoid taking magic mushrooms. High dosage of psilocybin will trigger blood pressure, stroke, or heart attacks. Intense sweating and warm episodes that are caused by taking psilocybin will result in an elevated body temperature.
Some users experience unpleasant reactions other than hallucinations. Such as being overly agitated, intense and uncontrollable fear, delirium, manic depression or syndromes that mimic schizophrenia. If this happens, you may need medical assistance.
Although the research on psilocybin and magic mushrooms is growing, it’s still a Schedule I drug. Therefore, it’s crucial to supervise the use of psilocybin and magic mushrooms. At least until proven medical research emerges or changes in regulations. But if you’re feeling adventurous, using it in lower dosages should be relatively safe.