Psychedelics

Everything You Need to Know About Psilocybin Mushrooms and Mushroom Drugs

psilocybin mushrooms and mushroom drugs
Written by Alexandra Hicks

Psilocybin mushrooms and other mushroom drugs are trending big time. Whether it’s a new decriminalization or a recent study to come out, we keep hearing about the many wellness benefits and increased access to shrooms. Granted, there are still no consumer products available, but the fact that laws are beginning to loosen up is a positive sign in and of itself. Scroll down to learn everything you need to know about psilocybin mushrooms.

What are Psilocybin Mushrooms? 

Psilocybin is the primary compound found in psychedelic mushrooms and truffles. It’s a basic tryptamine hallucinogen with properties similar to lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and mescaline, although the chemical structure is somewhat different. Research over the years indicates a common mechanism of action through serotonergic (5-HT) pathways. Psilocybin is a strong agonist at 5-HT receptors which are located within the thalamus and cortex of the brain. 

One can expect the onset of hallucinogenic effects to kick in around 20 to 40 minutes after consumption, and they last up to 6 hours. Psilocybin’s threshold for intoxication is approximately 40 mcg/kg of body weight. In wild mushrooms with lower levels of psilocybin, this translates to about 2 grams, although some people use up to 4 grams for a good psychedelic trip.  

Swiss chemist Albert Hoffmann was the first to isolate Psilocybin back in 1958, using the Psilocybe Mexicana mushroom species from Central America. Psilocybin is found in both wild and cultivated mushrooms, although just like with cannabis, cultivated mushrooms tend to be more potent. Through cross-breeding, cultivated mushrooms can have up to 10 times higher levels of psilocybin than wild species.  


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Other Types of Psychedelic Mushrooms 

There are many different strains of psilocybin mushrooms, which are the more popular of the psychedelic mushroom varieties. However, another type that’s been of growing interest are Amanita muscaria. Amanita muscaria, often referred to as the fly agaric or fly amanita, is a member of the Basidiomycota family of fungi, of the genus Amanita.  

This mushroom species gets its common name from its ability to attract and kill flies and possibly, mosquitos. The fly agaric is native to the temperate and boreal regions of the Northern Hemisphere including Europe, North America, and Siberia/Northern Asia. It’s a highly adaptable mushrooms species that can now be found throughout the world, and it’s closely tied to various deciduous and coniferous trees, commonly found growing under birch and pine. Amanita muscaria mushrooms have round, often dome-shaped, red caps with white spots and white gills.  

They are without a doubt one of the most recognizable of the toadstool mushroom species. You can spot Amanita muscaria mushrooms in the Mario franchise games, the Alice in Wonderland mushroom scene, and many other cartoons and animated games. Although they have many features that make them easily discernible from other mushroom varieties, there are several known subspecies of Amanita muscaria, some more potent/toxic than others.  

In classic psychedelics like psilocybin/shrooms, mescaline, and LSD, the active compounds interact with our serotonin and/or dopamine neurotransmitters, which are 5-HT2A agonists. In A. muscaria, the psychoactive ingredients are muscimol and ibotenic acid. Muscimol activates the major inhibitory neurotransmitter system, gamma amino butyric acid (GABA). As an inhibitory system, muscimol works by suppressing the activity of neurons in the brain.  

Ibotenic acid is a neurotoxin and agonist of glutamate receptors, specifically at both the N-methyl-D-aspartate, or NMDA, and trans-ACPD receptor sites. Neurotoxins interrupt communication between neurons across a synapse, changing the way the nervous system functions. Ibotenic acid is a secondary metabolite that converts to muscimol via decarboxylation.  

While that may sound pretty intense, people who use these mushrooms compare the feeling to being drunk, but with a bit more of a curious and psychedelic vibe to it. The muscimol in these mushrooms can produce feelings of euphoria, hallucinations, muscle jerks, drowsiness, sweating, pupil dilation, and increased body temperature. 

Research and Legality  

In the United States, use of psychedelic mushrooms has been illegal since the Controlled Substances Act was implemented in 1970. Since then, clinical studies have pretty much ceased, but recreational use definitely has not.  

However, in 1992, the National Institute on Drug Abuse linked up with an FDA advisory team to revamp research efforts of psychedelic agents – albeit extremely limited research. In 1993, the Heffter Research Institute in New Mexico was founded. It’s one of the only institutes in the world the is entirely dedicated to uncovering the medical benefits of psychedelic compounds found in nature. Despite these developments, psilocybin is still banned in the U.S. 

psilocybin mushrooms and mushroom drugs

Around the world, novel and alternative treatments for mental illnesses becoming increasingly sought after, new resources are being aimed at age-old therapies including cannabis, ketamine, mescaline, and psilocybin. Dr. George R. Greer, co-founder and president of the Heffter Research Institute, “Our mission is two-fold: one to do research that helps us understand the mind, the brain, how all that works, and number two, to help reduce suffering through therapeutic use of psychedelics.” 

Dosing and Fostering a Good Trip 

Defined simply, or if you look up the term in an online dictionary, a “trip” can be described as a “temporarily altered state of consciousness”. This is accurate, but an incredibly lackluster explanation for something that can be transcendental and life-changing for many people. A “temporarily altered state of consciousness” can technically be achieved through the use of any drug that produces a “high”. Even sleeping puts you in a “temporarily altered state of consciousness”.  

But psychedelic trips are different – they’re more sentient in nature. Trips can vary greatly in intensity, but they generally make you feel something. Psychedelics affect all the senses and can change a person’s thought process, and their sense of time, space and reality. They are known to produce auditory, visual, and sensory hallucinations; however, some users experience no hallucinations at all, but rather a sense of general well-being, connectivity, and euphoria. Numerous factors make tripping a very subjective experience.  

Dosing (which can range from microdoses that are less than 0.5 grams, to “heroic” doses that are 5 grams or more) and other elements can significantly impact a psychedelic trip, so you want to make sure that you’re doing everything possible to guarantee an uplifting and beneficial high.  

Although a psychedelic trip can be achieved via meditation, sensory-deprivation, light therapy, and a handful of other methods; the easiest and most common ways to achieve this state of mind is through the use of psychedelic drugs. Psychedelic drugs, also referred to entheogens, are a subset of hallucinogens which contain compounds that can alter perception. The term entheogens come from Greek and can be roughly translated to mean “building the God within”.  

To utilize these compounds to their full potential, a few things need to be kept in mind, all of which largely have to do with a concept known in the psychonaut world as ‘set and setting’. Set refers to your state of mind, while setting describes the environment of your trip. Psychologist and author, Timothy Leary, could not emphasize it more… “set and setting are of utmost importance when it comes to having a happy and therapeutic psychedelic trip,” he says. 

Risk of Addiction and Overdose 

Psilocybin mushrooms and other mushroom drugs have a very low potential of both addiction and overdose. As a matter of fact, recent studies confirm that only 0.2% of magic mushroom users seek emergency medical care after use… the lowest of any recreational drug, including cannabis. A psilocybin “overdose”, or a bad trip rather, can lead to various psychological symptoms, the primary one being very intense panic attacks.    

One of the biggest risks to consider when eating magic mushrooms, especially if you’re foraging for them yourself, is picking the wrong type. Given that there are over 14,000 different mushroom species in the world, it’s easy to conclude that some may have very similar characteristics – making them hard to tell apart from each in real life situations. Eating a poisonous mushroom can be fatal, so that’s definitely something you’ll want to be very careful about. 

It’s also important to keep in mind the stark contrast between an overdose and a bad trip. Some people might mistake the two, but they are fundamentally different. The main difference between the two is that overdoses are physical and bad trips are mental. Overdoses can be fatal, whereas bad trips are basically just scary and confusing.  

That distinction is extremely important, because it really highlights the sheer insanity of keeping psychedelic drugs illegal. How are drugs like Oxycontin and other opioids (which kill an average of 44 people per day in the U.S.) legal with prescriptions, while psychedelics that are considerably safer remain prohibited? 

Psilocybin for Depression 

Although there are many possible uses for psilocybin, at the moment, it’s most frequently used to treat conditions relating to mental health. Depression and anxiety are among the most researched indications for psilocybin treatment.

“There’ve been some promising preliminary results in such areas such as the treatment of overwhelming depression and existential anxiety in people who are facing the end of life, who have diagnoses of advanced-stage cancer,” Dr. Charles Grob, professor of psychiatry at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, stated in an interview with Healthline. “The thing that we have the most evidence for is cancer-related depression and anxiety. That seems really strong, and I’d be surprised if those results didn’t hold up,” he added.

Another possible use for psychedelic mushrooms is in the cessation of smoking, drinking, and other possible drug addictions. In a small pilot study conducted at Johns Hopkins University, people who partook in psilocybin therapy for addiction successfully abstained from smoking cigarettes over the following 12-month period.

“The general idea is that the nature of these disorders is a narrowed mental and behavioral repertoire,” says Matthew Johnson, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavior Sciences at John Hopkins. “So, in well-orchestrated sessions, there is the ability to essentially shake someone out of their routine to give a glimpse of a larger picture and create a mental plasticity with which people can step outside of those problems.”

Final Thoughts

In the coming years, we can expect to see more research and legalizations coming in the realm of psilocybin mushrooms and mushrooms drugs. Remember to subscribe to our newsletter to learn more, and to be update as soon as new products become available.

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About the author

Alexandra Hicks

Managing editor at Cannadelics and U.S based journalist, helping spread the word about the many benefits of using cannabis and psychedelics.

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