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The active component in "magic mushrooms," psilocybin mushrooms is a naturally occurring and powerful psychedelic. Despite being a class I substance, psilocybin has unique therapeutic value if used appropriately.
When ingested, psilocybin is rapidly converted to psilocin, which causes most of its effects by activating serotonin receptors in the brain. This creates a cascade of effects lasting several hours, including euphoria, openness, and distorted perception.
Psilocybin is famous for its changes in perception. Notable among these are hallucinations and entheogenic (spiritually-enhanced) experiences. Despite its popularity, in a therapeutic setting, it can be not only non-addictive but anti-addictive. Like other psychedelics, it has the potential to curb addictions to other substances if used appropriately.
From Mesoamerica to Siberia, psilocybin was originally used as a tool by shamans to commune with the divine. Evidence for 'mushroom cults' in Mesoamerica goes back as far as 1000 B. C. in the form of mushroom stones throughout Mayan settlements. In addition to entheogenic experiences, psilocybin mushrooms have been utilized for divination (knowledge seeking), healing, and community bonding.
In the case of divination and healing, shamans reportedly used the mushrooms to expand their consciousness, allowing them to "see" the disease in question and communicate with "spirits" in other worlds. Magic mushrooms were ancient tools, and perhaps the first tools, used for medicinal purposes across the world.
Psilocybin was studied intensely in the 1950s by Gordon Wasson and the active compound synthesized by Albert Hofmann soon after. It soon after became a class I drug worldwide due to its powerful effects and potential dangers.
Recently, decriminalization in some countries has allowed research to begin in the psychiatric and therapeutic realms. This research aims to provide relevant information for the public and discover the benefits of various doses.
While most research and information on psilocybin are relegated to standard doses of 3-7 grams, new research examines the effects of microdosing. Specifically, the research examines the minimum effective dose that offers potential health benefits with the fewest side effects and dangers.
While Psilocybin has been decriminalized in several countries, including the Czech Republic, Jamaica, and Portugal, it is still illegal in the USA. However, many cities are trailblazing the way for the country by decriminalizing mushrooms in their legislature.
It began in Denver, CO, in May of 2019: the epicenter of plant-based drug legality. In California, Oakland and Santa Cruz soon followed. As recently as January 2021, Somerville, MA has decriminalized Psilocybin.
Oregon set a new precedent in the 2020 elections when they allowed statewide decriminalization of psilocybin and legality for medical use.
It's important to understand the progression of legality. Decriminalization means it is not illegal to possess a certain amount. It is still illegal to cultivate and sell. Legality goes first to medical purposes, followed by recreational use, and finally, the legality of sales and cultivation.
While it is still illegal to possess, sell, or cultivate psilocybin in the USA, the ancient pharmaceutical is following cannabis' path to legalization.
Related Article: Psilocybin: Legal in the USA?
If you’re living in America, psilocybin- and psilocin-containing compounds are illegal as schedule 1 drugs at the federal level. However, local state and city governments have specific laws that govern the use and cultivation of mushrooms.
While you can’t buy psilocybin products for recreational use, there are three primary ways to interact with and use psilocybin mushrooms.
1. Cultivation: In 2021, the cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms is illegal at the federal level. However, cultivation is legal in areas where psilocybin is fully decriminalized: Ann Arbor, Michigan; Denver, Colorado; Santa Cruz, California; Somerville and Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Washington D.C. The entire state of Oregon has decriminalized psilocybin for all uses except medical.
It’s important to note that full decriminalization allows cultivation for personal use. Cultivation for selling, and the act of selling schedule 1 drugs itself, is illegal everywhere.
Curiously, in all states except Georgia, California, and Idaho, mushroom spores (which are absent of psilocybin or psilocin) are legal to sell unless that sale is with the intent to produce. To sum up, it’s legal to buy spores anywhere in the US and cultivate them for personal use in Oregon or the five cities listed above. It’s illegal to sell or produce psilocybin to sell anywhere in the US.
For information on safely and legally growing mushrooms at home, check out these articles:
2. Foraging: Another way to access psilocybin mushrooms is to go out and pick them from the forest. As I do not have any experience doing this and there is a high-risk factor involved, it is not recommended. However, for those curious about the option, I will provide three articles for individuals to inform themselves about foraging.
3. Clinical Trials: While many people are interested in acquiring psilocybin mushrooms for personal and spiritual use, there is another method that many may not have considered, which is participating in clinical trials. Because they are conducted in a controlled setting with experienced professionals, they remain the safest option. The trade-off with these trials is that some individuals may not have the freedom they require while tripping for deep exploration and introversion. Readers can find a current list of studies here.
Additionally, interested individuals are encouraged to check out How to Join a Psychedelic Clinical Trial at the psychedelic support website.
The direct effects of psilocybin are dependent on the dose in question. Higher doses, because they increase the euphoric and hallucinatory effects, are also more dangerous. Likewise, lower doses do not confer the same effect to the serotonin receptors. Thus, lower doses are not as hallucinatory and do not carry the same dangers.
James Fadiman conceived the following categorical doses in his book The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide. Exact doses are based on information from erowid.org on psilocybin doses from the psilocybe cubensis species.
At less than a quarter of a gram, microdosing psilocybin will only involve a small fraction of a stem or cap. In many cases, the shrooms can be ground up, weighed out with a microscale, and capsulated. This allows a specific dose without the drawn-out mastication and flavor of eating raw psilocybe cubensis.
The concert, or museum dose, is less than a gram of shrooms. This dose is powerful enough to create exciting visuals and feelings of euphoria. Simultaneously, hallucinations are not present, and it is possible to function in public settings such as museums or concerts.
Around a half-eighth of dried shrooms, the creative dose is a healthy mix of introversion, interesting visual effects, and expanded consciousness. Some tracers and hallucinations may occur but will be minor. This dose will influence cognitive load, perceived patterns in reality, and the ability to socialize and form abstract thoughts.
This makes it good for introverted work and meditation. At this point, you should avoid public spaces and keep a close group of trusted individuals available if needed. Because our abstract framework for reality begins to break down at this stage, it is beneficial for problem-solving and thinking outside the box.
The explanation of the next three doses are based on my personal experience and may be considered controversial.
As the name implies, this dose is very effective for mental therapy. At this dose, visual hallucinations are much more common, the ego begins to dissolve, and the guiding framework our ego creates to contain reality goes with it.
It is highly recommended to have an experienced psychonaut with you when delving into these and higher doses. While euphoria and visual stimulation increases, the ego's presence and its hold on reality subsequently decrease.
At a therapeutic dose, the ego is still present enough to maintain consciousness and be aware of the experience. Because many of the ego's beliefs and any constraints it may have begun to dissolve, the ego itself is much more open to information from the subconscious.
This can be potentially healing and equally frightening or painful, depending on the individual and their setting during the trip.
Anything higher than 3.5 grams is recommended only for experienced psychonauts. At this point, visual hallucinations become far more present. It should be noted that psychedelic hallucinations do not create anything that does not exist. They do influence the way we perceive reality.
This is due to the function of the ego as an organizing agent of reality through abstract frameworks. Our egos compartmentalize and simplify reality so that we can understand and operate within it in our day to day lives. When the ego dissolves, the abstractions dissolve with it, creating the phenomenon of tripping.
The heroic dose is reserved for the most experienced psychonauts. After 7 grams, hallucinations and dissolution of the ego occur to completion. Another way to state this is that the ego has achieved complete unification and oneness with reality, ceasing to exist entirely.
Because consciousness and awareness may "blackout" at supra-threshold doses, it is highly recommended to be in a safe environment with an experienced therapist or trip sitter.
Unlike LSD, which can be quickly ingested with paper or a blotter, psilocybe cubensis mushrooms are an ancient plant that can be tough to swallow. Like other plant-based psychedelics, the same active components which cause us to trip are alkaloids, giving them an extremely bitter and unsavory taste.
Here are five ways to ingest shrooms ranked from most traditional and difficult to consume to the easiest methods of ingestion.
Microdosing shrooms, or consuming less than 0.25 grams of psilocybin, offers a very subtle experience. This experience offers the typical euphoria and openness of psilocybin without mind-altering hallucinations. Overall, microdosing is the safest form of consumption for psilocybin or any psychedelic drug.
Related Article: Top 7 Amazing Health Benefits of Psilocybin Mushrooms
Here are five benefits of microdosing psilocybin:
The answer is yes. While not as potent as larger doses, microdosing has been shown to increase creativity in controlled studies. Using tests that quantify creativity and other subjective metrics, researchers observed that microdosing increased creativity, wisdom, and open-mindedness.
The direct mechanism by which microdosing boosts creativity comes from its influence on the serotonin system. In low enough doses, psychedelics such as psilocybin increase cognitive flexibility. This flexibility allows a more open mind when problem-solving and creating.
Research on the physiological benefits associated with microdosing found that along with decreasing anxiety, microdosing also helps with pain management. The pain-reducing effects are not as pronounced as with larger doses but still statistically significant.
I suggest following James Fadiman's protocol for those of you new to microdosing or recreational users looking to follow a direct prescription.
James Fadiman has been researching psychedelics since the 1960s and is one of the world's leading experts on microdosing and psychedelics in general. He has designed this site to be a safe and informative haven for psychonauts, new and old.
Here you can find microdosing protocols, research, FAQs, and data from over 1500 microdosing participants.
No article about microdosing psilocybin would be complete without mentioning one of its greatest compliments: cannabis. While research has not evaluated the relationship between the two, anecdotal accounts of ingesting both plants together abound. Further, research speculates that about 60% of psilocybin users regularly consume the two plants together, although this is largely dependent on the demographic.
As far as microdosing psilocybin, the effects are far more subtle than cannabis and last much longer. Many of the same effects of microdosing, namely enhanced creativity and openness, with lower depression and pain, highlight cannabis use.
Microdosing with cannabis will pronounce the effects of both. Chemically, this is the result of both acting on serotonin receptors in the brain. Here we identify three strains to take with psilocybin to pronounce or isolate the effects.
Because mushrooms take about 45 minutes to an hour to become metabolized, many individuals get into the zone of their microtrip by smoking cannabis before the psilocybin takes effect. Another option is to consume the mushrooms with edibles, which will align the pharmacological timelines of both.
The best strains to take with microdosing are those that have a high THC and THCV content. THC is a psychoactive substance that promotes many of psilocybin's or LSD's effects on a much more subtle level. At the same time, sativas tend to promote the effects of microdosing more than indicas.1. LSD
If you are looking to boost your microdosing trip, consider LSD, which for many is a microtrip in itself. A true weed, this strain is disease resistant and can grow in a multitude of habitats. Its colorful buds and twinkling trichomes are a welcome invitation to the expansive world of microdosing.
The luxuriantly green buds of Durban poison hale from the port city in South Africa. Durban poison actually has a lower THC content than many other strains, promoting very high THCV levels instead. This strain offers clear-headed euphoria that is great for an energetic and productive day.
3. Amnesia Haze
A very popular Sativa, Amnesia Haze descends from South Asian and Jamaican roots. Noted for its psychedelic effects, it is the perfect way to uplift your day with energy and euphoria while microdosing.
Psychedelics have been in use for thousands of years. Demonized in the last century for their mind-altering effects, decriminalization in many countries has led to quality research being done on the subject.
It's important to understand the dose being taken, the effects of that dose, and the intent of consumption. Higher levels of psilocybin lead to greater euphoria, ego dissolution, and hallucinations. Greater risk also comes with greater doses.
Microdosing psilocybin offers the most subtle effects with the lowest possible risks. It is the minimum effective dose for psychedelics. Greater productivity, energy, and creativity are associated with microdosing, with concurrent lower depression, anxiety, pain, and addictive habits.
Microdosing has the potential to be a life-changing prescription. Just make sure to be safe, and enjoy your trip.
Michael Davies is a creative writer interested in the intersection between art, science, philosophy, growth, and the human experience. He has a voracious appetite for learning and loves to create.