- Magic mushrooms
Basics: Psilocybin is a naturally occurring chemical compound found in more than one hundred mushroom species. It is usually consumed orally by eating either dried or fresh mushrooms, adding them to food or tea, or by taking a capsule of its dried material. It usually takes under an hour for the psychedelic effects to become noticeable, and the experience usually peaks one to three hours later. The entire trip can last six to eight hours.
History: Indigenous communities in Mexico and Central America have used psilocybin-containing mushrooms in celebrations, healing rituals, and religious ceremonies for millennia. In the 1950s and ’60s, psychiatrists investigated the therapeutic potential of psilocybin, though less extensively than LSD. In the United States, most human psychedelic research halted in 1971 after President Nixon’s Controlled Substances Act—Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970—went into effect, designating psilocybin as a Schedule I drug.
In 2000, researchers at Johns Hopkins University received federal and institutional approvals to give psilocybin to human volunteers who had never taken a psychedelic, leading to the landmark 2006 publication “Psilocybin Can Occasion Mystical-type Experiences Having Substantial and Sustained Personal Meaning and Spiritual Significance.”
Potential Benefits: Like other classic psychedelics, psilocybin can cause visual and auditory distortions or changes; hypersensitivity to touch, light, and sound; an altered or slowed perception of time; and synesthesia.
Potential Risks and Side Effects: Psilocybin can cause nausea, vomiting, headache, and can increase heart rate and blood pressure.
Therapy: Studies have suggested that in combination with therapy psilocybin can be used to alleviate anxiety and depression in cancer patients, substance abuse disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder.Researchers are also investigating the use of psilocybin to treat anorexia nervosa and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. In some research volunteers, psilocybin has been shown to increase nature relatedness and overall well-being and life satisfaction.
Microdosing: There is a belief that taking small, sub-perceptual amounts of psilocybin can improve cognitive function, mental and physical well-being, and creativity. Other anecdotal evidence suggests that microdosing can be used to manage pain from migraines and cluster headaches. However, data on the effectiveness of microdosing is mixed and the possible side effects are unknown.
Legality: In the United States, psilocybin is listed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, making it illegal outside of specially approved research settings, though some states including Oregon, Rhode Island, and New Jersey, as well as municipalities including Denver, Oakland, and Detroit, have decriminalized it or deprioritized the local enforcement of laws against it.
Psilocybin services (which, according to Oregon law, must not include diagnosis or treatment of mental health conditions), are now legal at the state level, while according to federal law, those services remain illegal even in Oregon. In other states, some patients can receive this therapy by participating in federally approved clinical trials.
- A meta-review of evidence suggesting psilocybin could be used to treat many conditions, including alcoholism.
- A randomized clinical trial testing psilocybin-assisted therapy for depression.
- Brain scans suggest that psilocybin-assisted therapy can promote cognitive and neural flexibility in people with severe depression. Another study shows that this therapy changes which areas of the brain are active.
- A large survey of the enduring positive and negative effects of psilocybin on users.