“Shrooms” – Psilocybin
Shrooms is a slang term for psilocybin mushrooms.
Psilocybin is a naturally occurring psychedelic compound found in a specific species of mushrooms. Recreational users and advocates generally refer to these organic psychedelics as “shrooms” or magic mushrooms. For the last 30 years, they have had to turn to the underground market for their supply, but gradually starting to change.
In a recreational setting, there are still some side effects of taking psilocybin. Using them will generally have different experiences based on their amount and any tolerance they might have built. Some of the psychedelic effects of psilocybin can include:
- Visual, tactile, and auditory hallucinations
- Altered sense of time and reality
- Nausea, vomiting, a lack of coordination, or drowsiness, significantly if the mushrooms were not grown in a sterile setting
Taken in different ways, they can be made into tea, put into smoothies, or, most commonly, eat 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 response.
While regular users will build a tolerance to the chemical, it’s usually short-lived. Magic mushrooms aren’t known for creating a physical dependence, despite the Drug Enforcement Administration’s classification as a Schedule I narcotic.
- 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 their 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 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,” its 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.
How long does it last?
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.
According to the National Institute of Health, clinical studies do not suggest that psychedelics cause long-term mental health problems.
There’s new evidence to suggest psilocybin might be useful in treating depression.
Researchers at Imperial College London recently concluded a small study using 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 is regions of the brain known to collaborate. After a dose of psilocybin, brain scans showed that these networks grew more stable than before.
Psilocybin mushrooms are not always an enjoyable experience. 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 1960s. He has since gone on to be one of the leading proponents for microdosing mushrooms as a means of treating anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and even “writer’s block.”
The practice of microdosing 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 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 patient 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 “microdosing” mushrooms and the most recent study is that more research is needed. Scientists were quick to point out that the study was small, with only 19 patients. Also, 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, using data from a 2010 US population survey;
- Over 30 million people currently living in the U.S. have used LSD, psilocybin, or mescaline
- There were approximately 32 million lifetime psychedelic users in the U.S. in 2010,
- Including 17% of users were people aged 21 to 64 years
- The rate of lifetime psychedelic use was highest among people aged 30 to 34
Today, there is a growing magic mushroom decriminalization movement in this country. They, however, remain illegal and listed as a Schedule I narcotic by the federal government.
- Three cities have minimized the laws for simple possession.
- Its proponents are gradually gaining traction.
Psilocybin advocacy groups, like The Society for Psychedelic Outreach, Reform, and Education (SPORE), have even made their way to Washington. As a result, there now is a “psychedelic caucus” in Congress pushing for more research on the drug.
So far, three U.S. cities have voted to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms. Denver, Colorado, became the first in May 2019, followed by Oakland, California, in June of the same year. Santa Cruz, California, became the most recent to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms. They also broadened the range to “other natural psychedelics, including ayahuasca and peyote,” according to a report by CNN News.
Some experts worry that people will take these relaxed laws to sign that it’s safe to use large quantities of psilocybin mushrooms. However, all of the scientific studies are administering tiny doses to people who medical professionals monitor.
Much of the movement behind decriminalization results from studies that show it may help treat some mental health disorders.
“We have shown for the first time clear changes in brain activity in depressed people treated with psilocybin after failing to respond to conventional treatments,” writes Robert Carhart-Harris, lead author of a psilocybin study at Imperial College London.
Even the Food and Drug Administration, the federal agency responsible for regulating drugs and drug-related studies in the U.S., is paying attention. In late 2018, the FDA granted breakthrough therapy designation to one company. In addition, it cleared the way for clinical trials using psilocybin.
At the Johns Hopkins Center, scientists believe a range of disorders can benefit from hallucinogenic therapies. Some of these are treatments for conditions like the following:
- Substance abuse
- Treatment-resistant depression
- End-of-life anxiety
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
There may be a future where, like marijuana, many cities opt to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms. Indeed, though, more research is needed for effective mental health treatments before the general public assumes that psilocybin is consequence-free.