Psilocybin, a naturally occurring serotonergic tryptamine, is found in ‘magic mushrooms.’ At sufficient doses, these mushrooms reliably induce profound changes to consciousness which produce revelatory, spiritual and mystical-type experiences. Psychoactive mushrooms have been used for thousands of years by prehistoric tribes and by the Mazatec people of Mexico and Central America for community health and religious ceremonies. Psilocybin was originally discovered by chemist Albert Hoffman in the late 1950’s, the same chemist who synthesized LSD. There are over 200 documented mushroom strains that contain psilocybin, with the most common being the Psilocybe Cubensis. Three common psilocybin containing mushrooms are Golden Teacher, Penis Envy and Transkei Envy all containing average to high amounts of psilocybin. Psilocybin containing mushrooms are currently illegal Schedule I drugs in most countries, however, there are many countries, states and jurisdictions laying the groundwork for integration with healthcare services and building paths towards decriminalization and legalization.
How much should I take?
Use the following information as a guideline, not a recommendation. If this is your first dose you may consider beginning with 1.5 grams of dried psilocybin mushrooms that have an average potency such as Golden Teacher. For a full experience consider consuming 2.5 - 3.5 grams. More experienced journeyers may consume 3.5 - 5.0 grams of dried mushrooms to go deeper.
Current research with psilocybin commonly uses 20-30 milligram doses of pure psilocybin which is equivalent to 4-5 grams of dried Cubensis mushrooms (ref). Psilocybin is well tolerated and safe for human studies at oral doses of 8–25 mg (ref). There are no known doses of psilocybin that produce neurotoxic or lethal effects.
How should I take it?
Most commonly, mushrooms are consumed in their raw dried form. However, other preparations include placing dried mushrooms in juice high in citric acid (i.e. lemon or orange juice) to reduce potential gastro-intestinal upset. Other common preparations include mushroom chocolates or mushroom tea to improve palatability, however, all preparations lead to the same psychedelic experience.
How long does it take to kick in?
30-45 minutes if on an empty stomach when chewed well. If you have had a moderate to large sized meal prior to and or just swallow the dried mushroom, the onset of the experience may take longer.
When does the peak experience occur?
Approximately at the 2 hour mark.
How long does it last?
How do psychedelics work?
When you ingest psilocybin it is converted to psilocin which then primarily binds to serotonin receptors, namely, subtypes 5HT2A, 5HT2B, 5HT2C, and 5HT1C. The 5-HT2A receptor is predominantly a cortical versus subcortical receptor and is one of the most abundant 5-HT receptors in the cortex (ref). Further, 5-HT2A receptor density is relatively high in regions that serve the default-mode network (DMN), a network of brain regions that are most active during mind wandering, mental time travel and rumination (ref). After a session with psilocybin, studies often report durable reductions in activity in the DMN which coincide with anti-depressive and anti-anxiety effects, relaxed prior beliefs, less rumination, and more perceived unity (ref).
Psilocybin and LSD are drugs that bind to serotonin receptors. Prescribed medications such as SSRIs and SNRIs to manage mental health conditions block the reuptake of serotonin resulting in a net increase of serotonin. Thus, it is theorized that taking psilocybin or LSD while on medications like SSRIs could pose a low risk of Serotonin Syndrome, a condition where too much serotonin causes signs and symptoms that can range from mild (shivering and diarrhea) to severe (muscle rigidity, fever and seizures). The risk of serotonin syndrome may increase if using psilocybin or LSD while taking MAOIs. MAOIs inhibit an enzyme that breaks down serotonin resulting in a net increase in serotonin (ref). For more information on Medications and Psychedelics click here.
- It's important to note that the data remains unclear if serotonergic agonists such as psilocybin and LSD are potentiated, intensified, prolonged or blunted with acute or long term use of SSRIs. To mitigate risk and foster an ideal experience, psychedelic journeyer’s are often advised to speak with their primary healthcare provider and decide if tapering from their medications prior to a journey is the right course of action.
- It's important to note that there is a wide range of possible psychedelic experiences and so each person will have a unique experience. From experience to experience within the same journeyer, variability also exists. Also, different strains and potencies of psilocybin containing mushrooms will produce different effects.
- Just prior to the journey, journeyer’s might be feeling both excited and anxious which is all part of the experience. Journeyer’s should take solace in the preparation leading up to this point. They reflect on their intention and remind oneself to focus inwards, trust, let go, surrender, and breathe in the experience.
- Commonly, a psychedelic mushroom experience lasts around 6 hours. It often begins within 30-45 minutes post-consumption, peaks around the 2 hour mark and diminishes over another 3-4 hours. In the days following the experience there is an ‘afterglow’ in which journeyers report having a greater sense of openness, cognitive flexibility, social connectedness, positive mood, acceptance, peace, and heightened taste, smell, sight, and hearing. The afterglow may last 1-30 days.
- Onset: In the first 30-60 minutes, journeyer’s may notice a general warm glow, a sense of relaxation throughout the body, and a heightening of all senses with a notable shift in vividness of colour and sound. This is often the point where journeyer’s have some desire to get comfortable and lay down if they haven’t done so already. There is often a noticing of a steady stream of thoughts arising, some difficulty focusing, and laughter starting to emerge. As the music plays, you may notice yourself fading, similar to drifting into and out of a dream, into thoughts, the visual field, and music for longer periods of time.
- Peak: Hours 2-4 are often considered the peak of the trip. This is where having a mantra well versed is helpful if things start to get tough: trust, let go, be open, breathe, surrender. Journeyer’s may notice a tension or resistance to transcending the ego or allowing your sense of self to dissolve. Continued resistance may lead to thought loops, heightened anxiety and fear. The key here is to surrender to the experience and let go. Whether or not the journeyer’s experience ego dissolution, this is the point where one ‘drops in’ and becomes fully immersed in the experience. Notions of time and space have likely been displaced by feelings of tremendous joy or love, intense euphoria, and powerful open and closed-eyed visuals. You may experience an intense set of expanding and contracting images, shapes and patterns with these visuals often becoming the music and the music becoming the visuals. Once exploring the peak experience, a deeply embodied unity between the journeyer, with others, and the world may arise and be in a state of consciousness where the journeyer is one and the same with the world. This may be accompanied by a profound recognition about the unity and beauty of the world. Often, unmotivated laughter will continue to arise. Memories of people, places and key life experiences come up. If there is unprocessed past life events, some of these may appear as well which are often met with acceptance and empathy.
- There can be an ineffable mental clarity and novel perspectives gained on personal issues. Journeyers may be shown seemingly objectively true and compelling aspects of reality which are often referred to as the noetic quality of a trip. If you had set an intention, this might be a place where insight may be gained as it arises in this expanded state of consciousness. Pleasant and unpleasant memories and or emotions can also emerge here.
Tip: Be curious and open to both the pleasant and unpleasant. Do not grasp the pleasurable nor resist the difficult. Immerse yourself and surrender to the experience, your mantra and sitter (if you have one) will take care of you.
Remember: Challenging aspects of the journey can reveal valuable insights leading to learning and growth. Consider that it may be happening for an important reason. Be curious, be open, and let go. For recommendations on what to do with these insights, refer to the Integration resources.
- Refer to the mindfulness blog to get more insight on letting go.
- During hours 4-5, journeyer’s are often fully immersed in the experience. Journeyer’s may continue to gain clarity on personal issues, experience feelings of euphoria, joy and have boundless laughter. At times, journeyer’s may have an impulse to move their body with the music and notice a change in their proprioception (i.e. the body position in space). A journeyer’s movement may feel free and easy as it ebbs and flows with the music.
- Through hours 5-6, as you come down, you may start to notice a fading between normal waking consciousness and the psychedelic experience. Journeyer’s might be experiencing tears of joy, a sense of peace and ease, love, along with mental and physical calm.
- Eventually, journeyer’s will notice they are back in a normal waking state of consciousness. Journeyer’s may have a desire to gently move about, reorient with their surroundings, hydrate, eat, rest and reflect. Self care practices and having social support will be key here.
- Acute: gastro-intestinal upset, transient anxiety or fear, reduced decision making ability and movement coordination. Increase in blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature similar to engaging in light exercise (ref).
- After your trip: headache, emotional sensitivity, fatigue, nausea.
● Less common: insomnia, nightmares, vivid dreams, flashbacks, depression, anxiety.
Rare Undesirable Side-effects:
What does all this mean for me?
- Complete the medical screening to see if psychedelics are right for you. Understand some of the risks involved.
- Have your mushrooms tested, consider starting with 1 to 1.5 grams of dried mushrooms in your first journey to learn the psychedelic landscape. However, a full experience often occurs at 2.5 - 3.5 grams. Increase the dose on subsequent journey’s if desired or are curious. A breakthrough dose that leads to a full experience often including ego dissolution is occasioned between 2.5-5 grams of dried mushrooms.
- Clear your schedule for the day of and 1-2-days after the journey. Do your research, consider getting a trip sitter and get them educated, prep your set, setting and intention. Grab your journal and enjoy the trip. Get ready for the integration process that follows the experience.
- If you are taking any medications to manage your mental or physical health or have other concerns related to your health, speak to your primary healthcare provider first.