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Shrooms: Psilocybin mushrooms, also known as “magic mushrooms” are a naturally occurring fungi that some experts say people were using as long as 9,000 years ago.
There is, in fact, evidence that some indigenous cultures and tribes used psilocybin mushrooms for ceremonial or religious reasons.
The generally dark-spored psilocybin species of mushroom grows on all continents, but is more commonly found in tropical and subtropical climates, in soils rich in other plant debris.
Shrooms are taken in a number of different ways, including making a tea, putting them into a smoothie or, more commonly, just eating the cap and stem. There is no set dose, as the potency of various batches of mushrooms will differ, as well as a person’s individual response to psilocybin.
Psilocybin is the active hallucinogenic chemical in magic mushrooms. While regular users will build a tolerance to the chemical, it’s short-lived. In other words, ‘mushrooms aren’t known for creating a physical dependence, despite the Drug Enforcement Administration’s classification as a schedule I narcotic.
Trip – The Effects
- Noticeable changes in visual, tactile and auditory senses within 45 minutes to an hour after taking mushrooms.
- In some cases, the effects don’t start kicking in for up to two hours. Much of this depends on the potency of them.
- As the sensory perception kicks in, often colors appear more vibrant, light sources may seem to shimmer or create halos and music may even sound clearer than ever before.
- The height of a “trip” is known as the “peak” and it can last anywhere from two to four hours. This is when the altered sensory perception and visuals are at their strongest.
- Because there’s an altered sense of time as well, users sometimes feel that the peak lasts for much longer than it actually did.
In the meantime, the team at Imperial College London told the BBC, that people should not self-medicate because while psilocybin might act as a “lubricant for the brain,” it’s effects and potential side effects are not widely known and understood.
When ingested this drug can alter sensory perception, cause euphoria and scramble normal thought processes in a way that feels spiritual in nature.
The psychedelic effects kick in anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half and can last for six to eight hours, depending on the amount taken.
The experience can go either way, positive or negative. Everyone reacts differently to psychedelics. Paul Austin, a writer for The Third Wave, offers potential first-time users some sound user advice;
- “Be ready to feel like someone stepped into your head and shuffled things around, or that they took some things out, or put some things in. Be ready for hysterical laughing fits, awe, profound insights, confusion, anxiety and discomfort. Be ready for anything.
Psilocybin mushrooms are not experience that everyone enjoys, but for those that day, doing them with friends or people they know is common. First timers are cautioned not to ingest ‘shrooms alone in case of a negative “trip” or any unknown side effects. It’s also important to note that the DEA’s schedule I classification makes magic mushrooms illegal in the United States.
The actual science behind psilocybin and depression is not new. Dr. James Fadiman conducted one of the last Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved studies on hallucinogens and mood in the 1960’s. He has since gone on to be one of the leading proponents for “micro-dosing” mushrooms as a means of treating anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and even “writer’s block.”
The practice of “micro-dosing” mushrooms has made headlines in recent years, due in large part to its popularity in Silicon Valley. This involves taking as little as one-tenth or one-fifth of what a person might normally take – amounts small enough that the user won’t actually get “high” or experience a “trip” – every few days. The purpose, according to Dr. Fadiman and others, is to activate or decrease activity in areas of the brain that cause depression, anxiety, creative blocks or physical ailments, such as migraine headaches.
According to reports from the Imperial College London study, patients repeatedly described the effects of psilocybin treatment as a “reset” or a “reboot” of their minds, with one patients likening the experience to his brain being defragged and cleaned up like the hard drive of a computer.
A common thread in all of the “micro-dosing” mushrooms and the most recent study is that more research is needed. Scientists were quick to point out that the study in London was small – only 19 patients – and that there was no control group to offset the findings. Larger, better-funded studies will be mandatory if psilocybin is ever going to take off as a treatment for depression.
Psychedelics have been used in the Americas for thousands of years. According to the National Institute of Health, an estimated lifetime prevalence of psychedelic use (lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin (magic mushrooms), mescaline, and peyote) by age category using data from a 2010 US population survey of 57,873 individuals aged 12 years and older.
- Over 30 million people currently living in the US have used LSD, psilocybin, or mescaline
- There were approximately 32 million lifetime psychedelic users in the US in 2010,
- Including 17% of users were people aged 21 to 64 years
- The rate of lifetime psychedelic use was greatest among people aged 30 to 34
Psychedelics and Mental Health – Population Study
According to the National Institute of Health, clinical studies do not suggest that psychedelics cause long-term mental health problems. There were no significant associations between lifetime use of any psychedelics, lifetime use of specific psychedelics (LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, peyote), or past year use of LSD and increased rate of any of the mental health outcomes. Rather, in several cases psychedelic use was associated with lower rate of mental health problems.
Possible Depression Treatment
There’s new evidence to suggest psilocybin might be useful in treating depression.
Researchers at Imperial College London recently concluded a small study using the hallucinogenic mushrooms on 19 people with untreatable depression. Depressive symptoms in half of the patients disappeared for up to five weeks and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the patients’ brains backed up the claim.
“What’s impressive about these preliminary findings,” Mitul Mehta, a professor at the Institute of Psychology, King’s College London, told the BBC;
“is that the brain changes occurred in the networks we know are involved in depression, after just a single dose of psilocybin.”
According to the brain scans, researchers noted activity in two key areas after patients were given psilocybin:
- An almond shaped mass of gray matter called the amygdala is responsible for how the brain. processes emotions like fear and anxiety. After a dose of psilocybin, researchers found this area less active, which leads to a reduction in symptoms of depression.
- The default-mode network are regions of the brain known to collaborate with one another. After a dose of psilocybin, brain scans showed that these networks grew more stable than before.
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