Psilocybin mushrooms (aka “magic mushrooms” or “shrooms”) are fungi that contain psilocybin, a naturally occurring psychedelic compound. More than 180 species of mushrooms contain psilocybin or its derivative psilocin. Psilocybin mushrooms have a long history of use in Mesoamerican spiritual and religious rituals, and are one of the most popular recreational psychedelics in the U.S. and Europe.
Psilocybin mushrooms have been used in therapeutic settings to treat a variety of ailments and disorders including cluster headaches, obsessive-compulsive disorders, anxiety, depression, and addiction.
While psilocybin mushrooms have been decriminalized in two North American cities (see “Legality” for details) they are currently illegal and categorized as a Schedule I controlled substance in the U.S. Recently, however, the FDA and DEA have allowed a number of small, highly controlled human studies on their potential for use in medical and psychiatric settings.
Psilocybin mushrooms can be ingested in their whole form. They’re typically dried and most everyone agrees they don’t taste good. An alternative method is to brew psilocybin mushroom tea. Some people like to put the mushrooms in peanut butter or Nutella to mask the taste.
What to expect
A typical trip on a moderate dose of psilocybin mushrooms (1-2.5g) includes increased intensity of emotional experiences, increased introspection, and altered psychological functioning in the form of “hypnagogic experiences” — a transitory state between wakefulness and sleep. Brain imaging studies show that a psilocybin trip is neurologically similar to dreaming.
Perceptual changes such as illusions, synesthesia, emotional shifts, and a distorted sense of time are all characteristic of a psilocybin trip as well. These effects are typically felt an hour or so after orally ingesting a dose.
You will begin to notice changes in your visual perception, such as halos around lights and objects, and geometric patterns when your eyes are closed.
Your thoughts and emotions will also begin to change. It’s not uncommon to have a sense of openness to thoughts and feelings that you tend to avoid in your everyday life. A sense of wonder and delight with the world around you, the people in your life, and your thoughts is also quite common, along with a sense of peace and connection with the world.
You may experience strong emotions, both good and bad. Try not to resist these feelings, but rather let them run their course. Many who do report strong negative emotions also report a simultaneous sense of calm acceptance and detachment, especially if they remind themselves that the emotions are temporary.
Physical side effects can vary from individual to individual and include changes in heart rate (up or down), changes in blood pressure (up or down), nausea, increased tendon reflexes, tremors, dilated pupils, restlessness or arousal, and troubles with coordinated movement.
One study also found that psilocybin can cause headaches that can last for up to a day in healthy individuals. None of the subjects reported severe headaches, however, and psilocybin is actually used to treat a clinical condition called cluster headaches (see therapeutic uses section).
Phases of a Psychedelic Mushroom Trip
The four basic phases of a mushroom trip are ingestion, onset, the trip (peak), and the comedown. Each phase comes with its own set of perceptions and observations, with the peak — typically a couple hours after ingestion — resulting in the most intense sensory and psychological shifts. No matter the phase, it’s important to relax, and remember that what you’re experiencing is temporary, and there is nothing to fear. Check out this guide for more information on what to expect during a psilocybin mushroom trip.
Anyone curious about trying psilocybin mushrooms for the first time will inevitably worry at some point about having a “bad trip.” Dysphoric hallucinations, uncontrollable paranoia, and reckless behaviors are among the most common worries. Bad trips are possible, but the risks can be minimized by adhering to the 6S’s of the psychedelic experience. Being prepared and knowing your motivations before undertaking a psychedelic experience can help manage the risks.
Interactions with Other Drugs
EFFECTS BY DOSE
NOTE: Effects listed below aren’t meant to be comprehensive, particularly at the lower dose ranges. They may be subject to change as more reliable, more widely representative data become available.
These dose ranges are for Psilocybe cubensis mushrooms. They may apply to other psilocybin-containing species, but some (e.g. P. semilanceata) are more potent on average.
Psychedelic mushrooms have a longstanding, profound, and storied background among the many cultures that have historically used them. Today, the benefits of these powerful little fungi are being recognized in a big way. Currently, studies into the vast and multifarious use of psychoactive mushrooms are being conducted across the United States and abroad. One such study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, found that, “a single dose of psilocybin produced substantial and enduring decreases in depressed mood and anxiety along with increases in quality of life […]. Additionally, the mystical and profound experiences that so many have experienced since psilocybin entered the American psychedelic lexicon in the 1960s, are now beginning to be tested and explored in mainstream medical science. The results are promising and compelling, and paint a substantiated, positive, symbiotic picture of mushrooms as a powerful healer.
Specifically, clinical trials have been, and are currently, being conducted in the United States and abroad which involve patients dealing with life-threatening cancer. These trials mainly seek to understand the efficacy of high dose psilocybin, administered in therapeutic environments, as a tool for reducing the psychological stress and anxiety that often accompanies a life-threatening diagnosis. The results so far have been promising. Under double-blind conditions, not only has a single, high-dose of psilocybin been shown to reduce symptoms of psychological distress among the terminal patient groups; the effects have been substantial and enduring.
Additionally, there is a growing body of research which suggests that part of why psilocybin is so effective is that it impacts neuroplasticity. That is, the brain’s ability to learn and grow and change.
Psilocybin is the active psychedelic ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms. The threshold dose for feeling the effects from dried mushrooms is typically in the 0.2-0.5g range, though it varies across individuals. A moderate dose in the 1-2.5g range, taken orally, typically produces effects that last from three to six hours.
Psilocybin is metabolized into psilocin, both of which appear to be equally active in producing psychedelic effects. Psilocybin is about 100 times less potent than LSD and 10 times less potent than mescaline.
Psilocybin and its metabolite psilocin primarily interact with serotonin receptors in the brain. It has an especially high affinity for the 5-HT (serotonin) 2A subtype receptors. In rodents, psilocybin shows strong interaction with receptors in hub regions of the brain that integrate sensory experiences. This could, therefore, explain effects such as synesthesia (mixing sensory modalities; e.g., hearing colors, tasting sounds) and altered sensory experiences during mushroom trips.
Psilocybin is well-tolerated among healthy individuals. Hormone levels, liver function and toxicity, and blood sugar all appear to be unaffected by its use. Complications that have been reported appear to arise in vulnerable individuals under uncontrolled conditions and at high doses. Adverse effects, like “bad trips,” can almost always be managed with interpersonal support and without pharmaceutical intervention.
Not much data exists concerning adverse drug-drug interactions with psilocybin. Anecdotal reports from emergency rooms suggest abstention from alcohol while tripping. In fact, it’s best to abstain from alcohol while using any psychedelic.
Psilocybin is illegal in most countries, but its legal status is open in some places. In the Netherlands, due to a legal loophole, it’s possible to purchase “magic truffles” that contain psilocybin without breaking the law. Psilocybin is legal at least in some form in Brazil, the British Virgin Islands, Jamaica, and the Netherlands.
In the U.S., while illegal at the federal level, psilocybin mushrooms were deemed legal to grow and possess (as long as they’re not dried) in New Mexico in 2005. In 1978, the Florida supreme court ruled that harvesting wild psilocybin mushrooms was effectively legal until the state legislature says otherwise. No Florida laws have been passed since regulating the harvest of wild-picked mushrooms containing psilocybin.
On May 7, 2019, citizens of Denver, Colorado voted to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms. This means it’s no longer a punishable offense for adults aged 21 and older to possess them for personal use. It doesn’t make them legal, though. If you’re caught selling or otherwise distributing psilocybin mushrooms, and possibly even growing them, you could still face criminal charges. The law remains unchanged for the rest of Colorado—at least for the time being.
In June the same year, Oakland, California followed suit with an amendment of its own: Council members voted unanimously to decriminalize not just psilocybin mushrooms but all “entheogenic plants” containing indoleamines, tryptamines, and phenethylamines. As in Denver, this only applies to adults aged 21 years and older. And it doesn’t include synthetic substances derived from plants or fungi, such as LSD. However, unlike in Denver, it also decriminalizes (or rather deprioritizes for law enforcement) the cultivation and distribution of the specified psychedelics—which include psilocybin mushrooms.
With the exception of three states, psilocybin mushrooms spores are perfectly legal to possess in the U.S. as the spores do not contain psilocybin or psilocin, the chemicals that are specifically regulated by federal law. However, although the spores are legal, growing mushrooms from the spores is still considered illicit activity.
Can psilocybin be detected in a drug test?
Psilocybin mushrooms and their metabolites are not included in most standard drug screens; however they are sometimes included in extended drug screens.
Can psilocybin cause psychological trauma?
If you follow the 6S’s of psychedelic use, and avoid taking psychedelics if you have a family history of mental health issues, psilocybin will not cause psychological trauma.
Psilocybin can cause you to feel crazy for a short time (acute psychosis), known colloquially as a “bad trip,” if you don’t follow the 6S’s. Although there is no concrete evidence, some scientists suspect that psilocybin can cause latent mental health issues to surface.
How do I know if I have psilocybin mushrooms?
Many species of mushrooms contain psilocybin, and some look similar to poisonous mushrooms, so it’s important to identify your mushrooms correctly. Many species of psilocybin mushrooms are recognisable by their long thin stems and short cone-like caps.
Is it legal to grow psilocybin mushrooms?
In most countries, it is illegal to possess, buy, or grow psilocybin mushrooms. However, the spores are legal to buy in many places, as long as you don’t use them to grow mushrooms. Read our full article on the legality of psilocybin mushrooms.
How do I take psilocybin mushrooms?
Psilocybin mushrooms can be eaten whole, brewed in a tea, or cooked into food. A moderate dose is 1-2.5g, which can be weighed on a scale.
How do I microdose with psilocybin mushrooms?
Psilocybin mushrooms can be microdosed by ingesting around 0.2-0.5g, but everyone’s tolerance is different.
How does psilocybin tolerance work?
Taking a moderate dose of psilocybin will produce an immediate tolerance. If you take the drug again soon, it will have a weaker effect. You should wait at least three days between psilocybin doses.
Can I mix psilocybin with other drugs?
Psilocybin should not be mixed with Tramadol, as it can lead to serotonin syndrome. Be cautious if mixing psilocybin with cannabis, amphetamines, or cocaine. Click here for a detailed chart of safe drug combinations.