What are psilocybin mushrooms?
Psilocybin mushrooms, more commonly known as shrooms or magic mushrooms, are type of fungi that include psilocybin, a naturally-occurring psychedelic compound. There are over 180 species of psilocybin mushroom, including those that contain the psilocybin derivative, psilocin. These mushrooms can be cultivated or may be found growing naturally in portions of Europe, South American, Mexico and the United States.
What is the psilocybin experience like?
Psilocybin is broadly considered to be one of the safest psychedelics, especially at lower doses. Psilocybin mushrooms can be consumed fresh or dried. Sometimes they are brewed in a tea or combined with food, most commonly cacao or chocolate. The psilocybin experience can include intense visuals, heightened senses, altered perceptions, time distortions, and deep introspection. At high doses, ego-loss can occur.
A brief history of psilocybin mushrooms
Some historians believe that North African indigenous people may have used psilocybin mushrooms in rituals and ceremonies as far back as 9000 B.C. In Mayan and Aztec ruins of Central America, representations of what appear to be mushrooms and have been found.
The Aztecs used a substance called “teonanacatl” which translates into “flesh of the gods” along with peyote, morning glory seeds and other psychedelics. It is believed that this teonanacatl was psilocybin mushrooms. There is also confirmed use of psilocybin mushrooms among the Mazatec, Mixtec, Nauhua and Zapatec tribes of Central America.
Psilocybin mushrooms are one of the most common psychedelic substances. When taken with care and intention in a controlled, carefully-prepared setting, the safety risks are minimal. However, as with all psychedelic substances, some risks are involved.
There are no known deaths associated with psilocybin mushrooms. However, there are reported cases of deaths where people misidentified mushroom species and consumed poisonous mushrooms, believing that they were psilocybin mushrooms. Always get your mushrooms from a knowledgeable source, and take extreme care if picking your own mushrooms in nature.
When consuming psilocybin, some people experience physical side effects, including nausea (from mild to severe), vomiting, changes in blood pressure and, in rare instances, elevated heart rate. However, these effects are rare and are usually temporary. However, you and your sitter should always seek medical assistance in the case of an emergency.
Never mix psilocybin with alcohol, other drugs. or anti-depressant medications (SSRIs). Always check before consuming psilocybin with other prescribed or over-the-counter medications. A complete list of interactions between psilocybin and other drugs can be found here.
Psilocybin can cause extreme psychological reactions, including sensations of extreme fear, anxiety, panic attacks, or paranoia, especially during the peak of the experience or during an episode of ego dissolution. It is recommended to pay close attention to set, setting, and sitter, for this reason. Always have a trusted sitter or supervisor who is able to calm you, if necessary.
Like all psychedelics, psilocybin mushrooms produce an altered state of consciousness. This can trigger psychosis in some vulnerable individuals. It is not recommended for people with a history of psychosis, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder to take psilocybin mushrooms. If there is a family history of mental disorders but not a personal history, start with a very low dose and gauge your reaction before continuing to a higher dose.
Psilocybin is the naturally occurring compound found in psilocybin mushrooms. It is a tryptamine alkaloid and a structural analog of the neurotransmitter serotonin. More in-depth pharmacological details regarding chemical structure can be found here.
In your body, psilocybin is broken down into psilocin, a natural derivative. Psilocin acts much like the neurotransmitter serotonin and, in fact, activates a specific serotonin receptor in your brain. The activation of serotonin receptors triggers psychedelic effects. Because of its similarity to serotonin, psilocybin is considered a structural analog.
There is an emerging body of evidence that psilocybin may help with anxiety and depression, particularly in individuals facing terminal illness or wrestling with treatment-resistant depression. Multiple clinical studies are underway currently.