Psilocybin – the main psychoactive ingredient of magic mushrooms – has received a lot of attention recently. After a lengthy ban, city governments in the United States have begun to soften the laws surrounding the mind-altering molecule. This last sign of acceptance follows early human evidence suggesting psilocybin to provide relief in certain settings.
Psilocybin – How It Functions
Magic mushrooms contain psilocybin, a natural psychedelic alkaloid. When swallowed, your body breaks down psilocybin into psilocin, which affects the signaling of serotonin in two main ways: by stopping serotonin uptake (leading to higher levels of serotonin in the brain) and by binding directly to specific serotonin receptors. This increase in serotonin and serotonin signaling is what causes the hallucinations that characterize a magical fungal journey.
How Safe Is Psilocybin?
When we talk about the safety of a substance, we are actually talking about two main things: whether a substance is addictive and how toxic it is to the body. Based on these two metrics, psilocybin fungi are among the safest recreational substances out there.
A 2011 review found that “the potential for physical and psychological dependence of magic mushrooms was low, that acute toxicity was moderate, chronic toxicity was low, and aspects of public health and crime were negligible.”
According to the 2017 Global Drug Survey, psilocybin mushrooms were considered the safest of all recreational drugs because of their limited toxicity and extremely low addiction potential. That said, it is possible for people to develop a mushroom addiction, but this addiction is psychological as mushrooms are not physically addicted.
Another study conducted by Professor David Nutt listed a variety of drugs based on their potential to cause harm to individuals as well as society. Mushrooms rank last, causing little harm to users and none to others. Making it to the top of the list as the most harmful drug for both users and society was alcohol.
Undoubtedly the greatest risk of getting mushrooms is that of a “bad trip”. It is important to note that the experience of psychedelic drugs is indeed subjective, so the way a bad trip occurs for one person may be completely different from the way it appears for another. However, the effects of a bad trip can be very strong.
Unfortunately, there is no way to know for sure how the mushrooms will affect you, especially if you are taking them for the first time. However, there are many things you can do to ensure that your mushroom experience is enjoyable.
Benefits of Mushrooms
We have spent some time talking about the possible negative effects of magic mushrooms. But there are many positives to taking advantage of using psilocybin mushrooms as well. This includes:
Magic mushrooms, when handled responsibly, can produce extremely pleasant effects, especially when you find the right dose. Microdoses of psilocybin, for example, can subtly decrease anxiety and improve mood. High doses, on the other hand, can take your mind to a euphoric dimension where you fully “understand” the whole universe, making you cry with joy for your newly found enlightenment.
The use of magic mushrooms as a spiritual thing dates back thousands of years. Like other psychotherapists, magic mushrooms can catalyze progressive experiences that help people feel more in tune with themselves and the world around them. Some people may even experience the death of the ego and establish a spiritual connection to the world that forever changes the way they run their lives.
The Potential of Psilocybin
Recent years have given rise to several studies on the potential of psilocybin. Some of these studies have investigated the effects of mood psilocybin. As one of the most prominent institutions in this field, Imperial College London has led numerous studies where psilocybin was administered to patients with related issues.
A 2020 paper published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology details a study conducted at the institution. The authors state that psilocybin has shown promises of low mood, but the mechanism remains to be understood. In an attempt to detect brain changes after the use of psilocybin, researchers exposed patients to various emotional stimuli and measured their responses using functional magnetic resonance imaging. They found that psilocybin altered connectivity in the amygdala and prefrontal cortex, resulting in revived emotional response. The authors state that the results may have revealed why psilocybin appears to be effective. However, more placebo-controlled studies are required.
Other studies have shown that psilocybin may play a role in inhibiting the compulsive use of other substances. Researchers  at Johns Hopkins University state that 80% of smokers were abstinent for up to six months after participating in the psilocybin study. They also suggest the ability of psilocybin to cause changes in brain plasticity that can result in altered mood, behavior, and posture.
There is still much we do not know about the potential of psilocybin and magic mushrooms. However, science has shown us that these substances appear to disrupt some of the neuronal patterns in our brain, enabling cross-conversations between regions of the brain that do not normally communicate with each other. This in turn can lead to extreme out-of-the-box ways of thinking and problem-solving approaches.
What Does This Mean For You?
If you are planning to use magic mushrooms, you can be sure that you will try the less addictive and less toxic recreational substance there, according to the Global Drug Survey. However, this does not mean that you should start chewing on the locker rooms like crazy. As with any substance, it is extremely important to take mushrooms responsibly and pay extra attention to your dosage, setting and placement to make sure you get the most out of these powerful mushrooms.