Answered on this page:
- What is psilocybin and how does it impact the body?
- What is alcohol and how does it impact the body?
- What are the expected effects from mixing alcohol and psilocybin?
- What is a safe amount of alcohol while using psilocybin?
- What are the general risks of polysubstance use?
In both medical research and everyday life, the discussion of psychedelics (including psilocybin) has grown increasingly accepted during the last two decades. People have become more intrigued about the role psilocybin could play in their lives as a result of evolving societal expectations and small-scale moves toward legalization.
Despite this newfound interest, there have historically been severe obstacles in psilocybin research. Because it was classified as a Schedule 1 chemical under the Controlled Substances Act, study was nearly impossible until the early 2000s, when the floodgates opened.
This has prompted more investigation into polysubstance use, particularly the combining of alcohol and psilocybin.
We’ll go over what psilocybin and alcohol are and how they affect the body in this article. We’ll also look at the research on combining psilocybin with alcohol and check in on the relative risks.
Disclaimer: We’d like to point out that we’re not doctors. We’re doing our best to find the best information available, but if you have any medical concerns, you should speak with your doctor.
Psilocybin: What is it and what does it do in the body?
Most psychedelic mushrooms include psilocybin, which grows mostly in subtropical humid woods but is found naturally on all continents except Antarctica. Psilocybin is found in both the caps and the stems of mushrooms, with the caps having higher quantities.
Although psilocybin is inert in the body, it is swiftly converted into psilocin, the primary hallucinogenic ingredient present in mushrooms. Psilocin works as a serotonin receptor agonist, triggering the same receptors that serotonin does. Serotonin is responsible for mood regulation in part, and activating those receptors results in a more positive mood and affect. This also makes the person more responsive and reactive to sensory input.
While people’s experiences with psilocybin vary widely depending on the set and context, the social, psychological, and cultural elements that influence your experiences with psychedelics, there are a number of typical adverse effects. These are some of them:
- Feelings of euphoria
- Dilated pupils
- Muscular relaxation
- Visual and auditory hallucinations
- Potentially synesthesia, the involuntary triggering of secondary sensory experiences (hearing colours, seeing sounds)
Some negative side effects:
- Modulation of heart rate (typically increases, but decreases are also occasionally reported)
- High body temperature
Many of the experiences we’ve spoken about so far have been self-reported, and the experience has a certain amount of subjectivity to it. People who have “bad trips” sometimes describe heightened anxiety, panic attacks, strange visions, or paranoia as side effects.
Over the previous ten years, research has been undertaken on this phenomena, and we uncovered three studies that assist put this discussion in context.
- Survey study of challenging experiences after ingesting psilocybin mushrooms: Acute and enduring positive and negative consequences
Authors: Theresa M. Carbonaro, Matthew P. Bradstreet, Frederick S. Barrett, Katherine A. MacLean, Robert Jesse, Matthew W. Johnson, and Roland R. Griffiths
Journal of Publication: Journal of Psychopharmacology
Date Published: August 30, 2016
Overview: The first of our three research, headed by Theresa Carbonaro, focused at the short- and long-term effects of swallowing psilocybin mushrooms by surveying adults who had so-called “difficult experiences” after taking psychedelic mushrooms. The study’s purpose was to better contextualize and understand the experiences that people refer to as “bad trips”.
Key Findings: The majority of the participants in the study (68%) admitted to taking a relatively high dose; for 16 % of the group, this was their first time using psilocybin, and for another 10%, it was their first time using any hallucinogen at all. Many of these “difficult encounters” have a median number of psychedelic usages of two to five, implying a widespread lack of psychedelic experience.
Despite the fact that the majority (59 %) rated the experience as one of the top ten most difficult of their lives, an even bigger majority (84 %) endorsed the beneficial impact their poor trip had on their lives. A fifth of the individuals (19%) said they had drunk alcohol before having a bad experience.
- The Challenging Experience Questionnaire: Characterization of challenging experiences with psilocybin mushrooms
Authors: Frederick S. Barrett, Jeannie-Marie S. Leoutsakos, Roland R. Griffiths, Matthew W. Johnson, and Matthew P. Bradstreet
Journal of Publication: Journal of Pharmacology
Date Published: November 17, 2016
Overview: Frederick Barrett supervised our second study, which focused on precisely describing characteristics for discussing poor trips. Two sets of individuals who self-identified as having used psychedelic mushrooms and had a negative experience were given a survey (the Challenging Experience Questionnaire). To help give a more representative perspective of the population, the two groups differed on the most prevalent demographic factors (race, gender, education level, and age).
Key Findings: The results of the questionnaire are fairly interesting, despite the fact that the research was mostly focused on fine-tuning the questionnaire. As previously said, moderate to high doses are likely to be linked to the event’s significance, yet many of the features that people perceive as unfavorable end up being part of the overall good experience. The participants also attributed the experience to beneficial changes in their well-being and behavior.
- Making “bad trips” good: How users of psychedelics narratively transform challenging trips into valuable experiences
Authors: Liridona Gashi, Willy Pedersen, and Sveinung Sandberg
Journal of Publication: International Journal of Drug Policy
Date Published: January 2021
Overview: Rather than using generalized survey questions, we conducted our third study using qualitative interviews. The number of participants was reduced to 50, but they were given more time to discuss their individual experiences and delve deeper into the meaning they held. The study’s purpose was to examine the narratives constructed by psychedelic users in order to learn more about how they interpret and gain meaning from their hard experiences.
Key Findings: The interviews mostly focused on how people perceived their own difficult experiences and what benefits or consequences they had on their lives. Many of these “bad trips” involved paranoia, anxiety, panic attacks, and bodily suffering, similar to those mentioned above. But, for many of the participants, finding significance in the “bad trips” was crucial, and framing these experiences positively had a role in their overall sense of self.
Because all of this can be overwhelming for beginning users with limited experience and tolerance, it is strongly advised that you avoid cross-contamination and polysubstance usage. Other substances may increase many of the problems that already exist when people have challenges with psychedelics.
Alcohol: What is it and what does it do in the body?
The exact mechanism by which alcohol operates on the body is surprisingly poorly understood for such a well-known and commonly used chemical. Alcohol’s unique qualities made it difficult to research outside of functional studies until the last few decades, but our knowledge of how it affects the body is rapidly improving.
Alcohol appears to work primarily as a GABA(a) receptor inhibitor, but it also has direct effects on a number of other neurotransmitters and ion channels, including the serotonin 5-HT3 receptor. According to one study, it may have synergistic effects with psilocin, allowing for more powerful experiences.
The benefits of alcohol are well-known and appreciated, but at tiny doses, they include:
- Feelings of euphoria
- Muscular relaxation
- Lessened feelings of social inhibition
- Generalized joyousness
The negative effects are well-known, yet they may be enjoyed to a lesser extent, and they include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Impaired sensory and motor function
- Dulled reflexes
Alcohol toxicity is abundantly established in the record, although psilocin toxicity is largely considered a non-issue. Maintaining a modest dosage is essential for most people to have a favorable experience with alcohol, both in the short and long term.
Is it safe to combine psilocybin and alcohol?
There haven’t been many conclusive studies about psilocybin or its possible use in combination with other substances because it’s difficult to research in the United States. This leaves us with little choice but to rely on aggregated, subjective data (such as polls and surveys), which is sufficient for making acceptable assumptions.
As previously stated, psilocybin and alcohol have many similar undesirable side effects, therefore their use together can increase the risk of:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Difficulty regulating body temperature
- Sweating or chills
- Difficulty regulating heart rate
People who take psychedelics report experiencing the effects of alcohol and drinking less as a result, which could contribute to an increase in the occurrence of acute alcohol poisoning.
Authors: Erich Studerus, Michael Kometer, Alex Gamma, Franz X. Vollenweider
Journal of Publication: PLOS One
Date Published: February 17, 2012
Overview: The goal of this study was to determine the relative impact of set and setting features, such as current mental state, psychedelic experience, expectations, and social/environmental variables, in comparison to the magnitude of the psilocin dose.
Key Findings: The researchers discovered a statistically significant link between moderate alcohol use and the occurrence of audio-visual synesthesia, as well as general pleasurable effects or visual distortions. While the dose size was found to be far from the most critical factor in potential psychedelic experiences, it does suggest the generally synergistic effects of moderate alcohol doses with psilocin.
Authors: Henry Lowe, Wilfred Ngwa, Ngeh Toyang, Henkel Valentine, Justin Grant, Blair Steele, Amza Ali, and Lorenzo Gordon
Journal of Publication: Molecules
Date Published: May 26, 2021
Overview: This article explores the possible usefulness of psilocybin in the treatment of a variety of psychiatric diseases, as well as the structure and mechanisms by which psilocybin affects the body.
Key Findings: While the authors believe that psilocin is of considerable interest for use in prospective therapies, they also believe that alcohol and other substance use could worsen the psychological and physiological hazards associated with psilocin use.
Mixed use is nearly never encouraged by doctors unless you have a lot of expertise and know how different substances impact you. While there may be synergistic effects on serotonin receptor triggering, the risks of unanticipated reactions tend to outweigh the perceived advantages.
While moderate drinking is unlikely to significantly enhance dangers, maintaining a delicate balance becomes more difficult when your body is attempting to absorb various substances with diverse but complementary effects on the mind. If you’re new to psilocybin, it’s a good idea to get used to the effects before mixing it with other substances that could increase them.
While the evidence is limited, it appears that mixing alcohol and psilocybin will have negative consequences, especially in people who have low exposure or tolerance to the substances or who drink excessively.
While moderate drinking with a moderate quantity of psilocybin should be fine, keeping the balance while under the influence of both substances can be difficult.
As a result, we only recommend mixing to people who have had extensive prior exposure to psilocin and are familiar with the effects it has on their systems.