There’s a good chance that you read the title of this article and thought to yourself, “Psilo…what?!” which is why we want to take this opportunity to shed light on what is shaping up to be the next “drug” that is legalized on a large scale. Psilocybin is the psychoactive chemical produced by the one and only “magic mushrooms”. Now before you roll your eyes, throw your hands in the air and mutter, “ehh…that’s not really my cup of tea. I’m not trying to permanently fry my mind or anything”, just answer one question: “did you also think that cannabis would make your brains look like a scrambled egg in a pan or make you melt into the couch at one point in your life?”
Point being, much like “Reefer Madness” once led entire generations to believe that cannabis was one of the most dangerous, illicit and evil intentioned substances; there have also been smear campaigns and a multitude of misinformation spread about magic mushrooms and their psychoactive compound, psilocybin (pronounced “sīlō sīben”). Entire books have been written on the subject (we recommend checking out any title by Paul Staments or James Fadiman as both of these individuals are revered as experts in the field). This means that it would impossible to explore psilocybin from start to finish (if there even is technically an ‘end’) with a single or even multi-part article. Instead, we would like to explore a few of the more commonly posed questions regarding psilocybin.
Are magic mushrooms for recreational use only?
Nope! While they certainly have a large following in terms of recreational use, that isn’t their only purpose nor their most important use based on the vast amounts of studies being released. One of the leading research teams at the moment in the world of psychedelics is the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research (www.HopkinsPsychedelic.org). This is just one of many teams of scientists who have been working tirelessly to uncover the medical potential of not only psilocybin but psychedelics as a whole. In fact, the team at Johns Hopkins recommended in 2018 that psilocybin be rescheduled from a schedule I drug to a schedule IV drug. This rescheduling (which has not happened yet) would lessen the regulations which are currently preventing further research. This is because a schedule I drug in the United States is classified as one with “no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse”. This creates numerous hurdles for scientists to conduct research before first dealing with an enormous amount of red tape. At the time of writing, cannabis also remains a schedule I drug, even though it has been legalized in well over half of the country. An article published in the Mental Health Clinician in 2017 outlines several areas where psilocybin treatment has shown promise. They include depression, suicidality, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), alcohol dependence and nicotine cessation (https://meridian.allenpress.com/mhc/article/7/1/24/127704/Clinical-potential-of-psilocybin-as-a-treatment). This is just scratching the surface as there are numerous peer-reviewed studies out there which discuss other conditions like PTSD and developmental conditions.
Will magic mushrooms fry my brain?
This is the point where our legal advisor begins to grimace until we provide disclaimers that you already know. We’re not doctors, we’re not health care professionals and we’re not scientists so of course, we can’t definitively say “no, it does not fry your brain” however, if you ask anyone in the aforementioned roles this question, they will most likely explain it like this….”no.” Before you drop everything and run out the door looking for mushrooms, you should understand that all of this information is still in the early stages and in no way is intended to represent the safety profile of psilocybin even though the FDA is currently fast-tracking psilocybin for treatment of various conditions. In fact, preliminary studies are actually pointing towards just the opposite of “brain frying” happening with even small doses of psilocybin. This increase in new brain cells or “neurons” is referred to as “neurogenesis” and has been shown by Johns Hopkins to occur in the hippocampal area of the brain in mice when psilocybin is administered. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the same effects will transpose to human subjects, but it certainly provides evidence to explore further.
This all sounds promising and I would like to try but I have responsibilities and can’t be tripping all the time…am I out of luck?
Not at all! There’s a way in which a person can experience magic mushrooms that doesn’t have to include a full-blown “trip”. If you’ve poked around the psychedelic community at all in the past couple of years, you’ve likely come across the mention of microdosing. This is just what it sounds like, a micro sized dose. Sure, a heroic 5 gram dose is going to send you on a multi-dimensional trip like you’ve never experienced before and there are even studies where researchers utilize larger doses like this on patients in therapeutic settings (not something we recommend doing unless you have experience and/or a trip-sitter). There are more and more people jumping onto the microdosing train daily. There are several “protocols” for microdosing but much of it comes down to dialing in what works best for you. The most popular approaches are the “Fadiman Protocol” and the “Staments Protocol”. These are essentially the same concepts but with minor variations in dosage frequency. A “true” microdose will consist of a dosage which is imperceivable to the user (if you “feel it” then you’re taking what is referred to as a ‘macrodose’, in which case you should probably lower your dosage). Most microdose routines have the user dose a few times a week followed by several days “off”, which helps prevent the development of tolerance. The idea behind microdosing is that you are supplementing with psilocybin (though there is also a large support base behind microdosing other psychedelics as well) with the intention of gradually making positive changes while being able to go about your normal activities without “tripping”.
Again, this area of supplementation is all still very early and experimental in the grand scheme of things. Before trying anything like this, you should certainly discuss it with your health care provider. It is also unfortunate that we also have to remind you to check your local laws and regulations as psilocybin is still considered a schedule I controlled substance in the US however, with the growing presence of support from scientists and researchers, it looks like psilocybin could be available at a store near you sooner than later….and to that, you may ask, “how do we open the doors to allow researchers to study psilocybin and similar psychedelics?” and we simply respond with, “Vote. Cast your ballot and let the regulators hear your voice!”