There’s a reason why magic mushrooms rank among the most popular hallucinogens in the world. They open up your mind in the most surreal way, and help you connect spiritually to a world you never knew existed. All this without you necessarily turning into an addict. In fact, the opposite is quite true regarding psilocybin mushrooms. Alongside other psychedelic substances like Ayahuasca and LSD, scientists believe these hallucinogens hold the key to curing other addictions like smoking, or treating conditions such as depression.
Most hallucinogens are alkaloids by nature and their chemical structures closely resemble those of natural neurotransmitters. However, they differ from other drugs like stimulants and opioids (which are also alkaloids) in that they take you to a different level of consciousness. Opioids will give you a relaxed feeling while stimulants will energize you, but they don’t fundamentally change your conscious experience. You can only compare the psychedelic experience produced by magic mushrooms to other extraordinary forms of consciousness such as yoga, meditation, trance, religious ecstasy or near death experiences.
Psilocybin is a hallucinogenic chemical found in over 180 species of mushrooms, commonly referred to as psilocybin mushrooms. The genus Psilocybe, ranks amongst the most potent among the magic mushroom family. Psilocybin is a prodrug, meaning it is biologically inactive and only turns into a drug once it is metabolized by the body to produce psilocin. The chemical psilocin is what produces mind-altering effects comparable to other psychedelics like LSD or mescaline.
Historically, psilocybin mushrooms have played an important part during Mesoamerican spiritual and religious ceremonies. It’s easy to see why. Shrooms don’t just give you a body high, they produce a most profound spiritual effect. When taken in microdoses, they give users a lasting feel good factor that keeps them more focused in their work. That’s the reason they’ve grown in popularity and are -now finding their way into mainstream society in the developed world.
How do Magic Mushrooms Work?
Psilocybin works by binding to serotonin, a chemical that’s produced by nerve cells which aids the communication between these cells.
This is how it happens:
- Upon reaching your stomach, psilocybin is converted into another chemical called psilocin.
- Psilocin binds to serotonin receptors called 5-HT2A altering the way your brain functions.
- Your visual cortex becomes more active, altering the way you perceive things.
- The visual cortex is the part of your brain that causes abstract thinking, thought analysis, and is responsible for mood and perception.
What psilocybin really does is to create new links across different parts of the human brain that are usually disconnected. You can think of psilocybin as a conductor guiding an orchestra. Studies using brain imaging have actually shown what a great influence psilocybin has on neural functions.
In one example, a study published in Scientific Reports followed the treatment with psilocybin of 20 patients suffering from clinical depression. The drug was administered in two doses of 10 mg and 25 mg spaced one week apart. 19 of the 20 patients had their brains scanned before and after a high dose treatment. The MRI scans were used to measure alterations in blood flow as well as the communication between different areas of the brain. After the treatment patients reported an improvement in mood as well as stress relief.
Psilocybin Works Differently Than Antidepressants
More and more studies are now being done using magic mushrooms to treat certain conditions like anxiety, addiction and even depression with some level of success. They’ve also been known to help manage illnesses like cluster headaches.
Neuroscientists are still not sure exactly how psychedelics work. However, MRI imaging has been able to show that patients’ brains experience reduced blood flow and appear to rest better after taking psilocybin. By contrast, patients suffering from depression and anxiety tend to display abnormally high brain activity.
Patients on psilocybin also undergo a resetting of their brains where the connections between various regions of their brains break down and then reintegrate. This could be the reason why persons treated with psilocybin are able to overcome compulsive behavior as well as depression.
Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris, of the Imperial London College, says participants who’ve received psilocybin therapy go through a cathartic emotional release, unlike the effects of antidepressants, which only dull the patients’ emotions. According to him, antidepressants and behavioral therapy, the traditional methods of treating depression, can take several weeks if not months to show results and don’t always produce the desired results. Psilocybin encourages patients to face their depression head-on because it works in tandem with our serotonin system to enhance emotional responses.
What Effects Should I Expect From Magic Mushrooms?
A moderate dose of psilocybin mushrooms (1 to 2.5g) takes you on a trip where your emotional experiences are intensified and your level of introspection is heightened. Your entire psychological functioning is altered as you go through a transient state between being awake and sleep. MRI scans of the brain have actually shown that a psilocybin trip is pretty much like dreaming.
One hour or so after ingesting psilocybin, you will start to go through changes of perception like illusions, loss of sense of time and synaesthesia. Visuals will become more enhanced and you will start seeing halos around lights and objects and sometimes even geometric patterns when you close your eyes.
You’ll feel awed and enchanted by the world around you, but at the same time you’ll feel connected to it and very much at peace. For some people, changes in the way they perceive things can last for a number of days.
Expect your thoughts and emotions to also go through some changes. Thoughts and feelings that you keep under the lid in your ordinary life may start to bubble to the surface. Try not to suppress these feelings; instead let them reach their logical conclusion. People who experience strong negative emotions report also feeling calm and detached afterwards.
There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence that shows magic mushrooms is helping improve the lives of ordinary white collar and blue collar folks by helping them boost their creativity and productivity. Science is now backing that evidence with hard facts.