This guide is for educational purposes only. While it is our belief that choosing to consume psychedelics is an inalienable right, many psychedelic substances are currently illegal to possess.-RS
Psilocybin is one of the most popular psychedelic substances in the media these days. If we were to ask supporters of the “stoned ape theory”, they would consider it one of the first psychoactive substances the human mind has ever experienced. Psilocybin converts to psilocin in either your stomach or liver, where it becomes active. Besides psilocin, psilocybin mushrooms sometimes contain an alkaloid called bayecetin as well, of which we know little.
What is Psilocybin
Psilocybin is an active alkaloid compound from the tryptamine family of molecules. It is one of 3 alkaloids in magic mushrooms that is responsible for inducing an altered state of consciousness. The other two are beyocitin and psilocin.
- Magic mushrooms
- Psilocybin mushrooms
- Psychedelic mushrooms
Psilocybin is a Psychedelic serotonergic tryptamine, which places it in the same category as DMT. As a matter of fact, it is almost structurally identical, with the main difference being the phosphate group. Unlike DMT, psilocybin is more resilient to MAO enzymes. This means that no MAOI is needed in order for it to function when ingested orally.
Forms & Ways of Consumption
Psilocybin is a compound that exists in more than 180 different species of mushrooms. The most common method of consumption is by eating the dried fruiting bodies (mushrooms) of the psilocybe cubensis fungus. This is because this species, when cultivated, provides the biggest yields of dry material. In some parts of the world, the fungi can produce sclerotia (or truffles). These are more popular due to their legality, such as P. tampanensis or P. mexicana.
The drying process causes a loss of psilocin, which is why some consumers prefer taking them when they are fresh instead of dry. When compared in P. cubensis species, potency can go double with fresh specimens when compared to dry ones.
Some species are extremely hard to cultivate, with foraging being the only option. Liberty caps, or P. Selimancatea, is one of the most known species of these mushrooms. Besides genus Psilocybe, there are many other genuses that contain psilocybin such as Panaeolus, Inocybe, Gymnopilus and others. All mushrooms from these genuses contain Psilocybin, and some such as “laughing gym” (Gymnopilus junonius) and can be easily mistaken for galerina species. Galerina species are highly poisonous and deadly.
Picking mushrooms from their natural habitat can be dangerous. Typically, only well-trained mushroom pickers can differentiate the tiny distinctions between species. The misidentification of mushrooms can sometimes cause sickness or even death when consumed.
Shroom Tea and Lemon Tek
Besides eating dry or fresh, some choose to make extractions, with water extraction (tea) being a popular route.
A popular tea extraction method is to boil the mushrooms in water for 15 minutes, then pour the water in a cup and make a second water extraction by boiling the same mushroom material in another cup of fresh water for an additional 15 minutes. The mushroom mixture will then be ground up into the smallest pieces possible by the user, or turned into a powder. More surface area = more access of solvents to extract.
Consumers sometimes add lemon juice to this mixture (known as Lemon Tek). The citric acid in the lemon juice helps the body speed up absorption, allowing for a quicker onset for the psilocybin/psilocin.
Much like other classic psychedelics, psilocybin has been in use for thousands of years, dating all the way back to 5,000 BCE. Depictions and carvings of mushrooms are documented in regions as far apart as Northern Algeria, China, and Central America. In more recent years, mushrooms have followed a close path to LSD.
Timothy Leary was a leading advocate during the 1960s counterculture movement. He propelled the recreational use of mushrooms in the 60s and 70s through the “Harvard Psilocybin Project”. Along with his partner Dr. Richard Alpert (now Ram Dass), Leary conducted a series of experiments with students using psilocybin.
In recent years, there has been a rapid expansion in current research. Scientists are testing psilocybin’s potential to help addiction, depression, anxiety, and more.
Drawings that date all the way back to 5000 BCE have been found in Northern Algeria that depict human figures covered in mushrooms. There have also been several discoveries of temples dedicated to “mushroom gods” in Mexico and Guatemala. In central Mexico, the Mixtec culture worshipped a specific god named Piltzintecuhtli who represented all hallucinatory plants — including the magic mushroom. Piltzintecuhtli is often depicted as kneeling while holding up mushrooms.
Many other people groups worshipped similar gods who represented hallucinogenic plants, including the Aztec god Xochipilli. In the mid 16th century, a spanish priest named Bernardino de Sahagun observed and recorded the Aztecs ingesting hallucinogenic mushrooms. As he wrote: “The first thing to be eaten at the feast were small black mushrooms that bring on drunkenness.”
Modern Day Discovery
In the 1930s, an anthropologist named Robert Weitlaner observed a Mazatec mushroom ceremony, and later sent samples of the mushrooms to Dr. Blas Pablo Reko, an Austrian botanist. Dr. Reko then forwarded the samples to Stockholm and Harvard for examination in order to confirm the existence and use of “hallucinogenic mushrooms” in foreign cultures. Unfortunately, by the time the samples had reached Harvard and Stockholm, they were in the process of decay.
It wasn’t until the 1950s that the mycologust R. Gordon Wasson traveled to Huautle de Jimenez to observe a ceremony, and later obtained Psilocybe caerulescens during another ceremony. In 1957, Wasson wrote an essay titled “Seeking the Magic Mushroom” in which he recounts his experience taking magic mushrooms in one of the Mazatec rituals he visited. Wasson is noted for being one of the first westerners to both participate in a Mazatec ritual and record his findings.
This essay then appeared in an issue of Life magazine, featured in the “Great Adventures” series. In 1956, Sandoz Pharmaceuticals began working to extract the active ingredient in mushrooms. It was none other than Albert Hofmann himself (the scientist who first synthesized and ingested LSD) who isolated psilocybin and psilocin, and developed a synthesis technique. Hofmann published the synthesis of psilocybin in 1959.
Important Events, Findings, Studies
A decade or more of extremely promising medical research was conducted using psilocybin before the FDA banned it in 1971. In the late 50s and early 60s, researchers became interested in psilocybin mushrooms to treat various disorders such as alcoholism, depression, and addiction.
In this first phase of research, most researchers discovered how suggestible the psychedelic experience was based on each volunteer’s description of their psilocybin experience (keep in mind we did not have the advanced neuroimaging devices to observe human brains on psilocybin like we have today). By 1960, Sandoz Pharmaceuticals began producing psilocybin pills, each of which contained 2 mg of psilocybin.
Timothy Leary and Magic Mushrooms
Shortly after tripping on psilocybin mushrooms in the 1960s, Timothy Leary became the first to ingest pure psilocybin in the form of the Sandoz psilocybin pills. Leary’s profound psilocybin experiences pushed him and his partner Richard Alpert to start the Harvard Psilocybin Project. With this project, they performed a series of experiments with Harvard graduate students on psilocybin.
In one of Leary’s most famous experiments, known as the Good Friday Experiment, 20 students took psilocybin and were told to report their experiences. Later on, Rick Doblin (the founder of MAPS) conducted a follow up of the study, and found something notable. Leary had failed to mention that one student experienced intense anxiety, and needed restraining as a result.
Following the work of Alpert and Leary from Harvard, recreational use of magic mushrooms skyrocketed — particularly among college students. This resulted in the US banning the possession of psilocybin in 1968. In 1970, the Controlled Substance Act passed, which categorized drugs into a scheduled system. Most hallucinogens (including psilocybin) were in Schedule I, meaning they have no medical value and possess a high potential for abuse.
Laws and Legal Status
Is Psilocybin Legal in the US?
The government enacted a ban on the possession of psilocybin and psilocin in 1968. In 1970, psilocybin and psilocin were listed as Schedule I drugs. In 2019, the possession of magic mushrooms was legalized in Denver, CO and Oakland, CA, but selling mushrooms is still prohibited.
Is Psilocybin Legal in Europe?
It is illegal to sell and transport psilocybin from Austria. You can’t consume them for a high, but the cultivation and possession of psilocybin mushrooms is ok as long as the mushrooms are “for microscopy only”.
In Portugal, psilocybin mushrooms are illegal, but decriminalized.
In the Netherlands, psilocybin mushrooms are legal as truffles.
The possession, sale, transport, and cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms is illegal in Italy, although they are decriminalized.
Spain decriminalized possession and cultivation of magic mushrooms. However, this is only if the mushrooms are for personal use in a private place. Sale and transport are illegal.
Legality of Psilocybin in the Rest of the World
The British Virgin Islands allows possession and cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms. Although it is illegal (but unenforced) to sell or transport them.
Possession, sale, transport, and cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms are all legal in Jamaica. Jamaica openly sells Psilocybin mushrooms.
It is legal to possess, sell, transport, and cultivate magic mushrooms in Brazil. Psilocybin and psilocin are listed as illegal, however the mushrooms themselves are not considered illegal.
Possession of magic mushrooms mushrooms is illegal in Mexico, although there’s no enforcement if the magic mushrooms are in an indigenous culture. Cultivation of mushrooms is illegal unless the mushrooms are grown in the wild. Sale and transport are illegal.
Magic mushrooms are legal in Samoa and Vietnam.
Recently, researchers have been able to study the effects of psilocybin on the human brain more than ever due to new neuroimaging technology and a recent renaissance of psychedelic research.
Psilocybin is a substituted indole alkylamine and belongs to the group of hallucinogenic tryptamines. Psilocybin’s active metabolite is psilocin. When ingested, psilocybin acts primarily on the serotonergic neurotransmitters. It binds with a high affinity to the 5-HT2A receptor (just like LSD), and also to the 5-HT1A receptor. The 5-HT2A receptor is expressed most densely in regions such as the posterior cingulate cortex (PPC), and lowest in the motor cortex.
The DMN (Default Mode Network) Hypothesis
The location of the 5-HT2A receptors may explain how and why psychedelics affect cognition and perception. Unlike other psychedelics such as LSD, psilocybin has no affinity for dopamine receptors. One study demonstrates that the psychotomimetic effects of psilocybin can be blocked completely by using a preferential 5-HT2A receptor antagonist called ketanserin.
A recent study by Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris shows through fMRIs that psilocybin dramatically reduces cerebral blood flow (CBF) to the default mode network (DMN). The same study also found that psilocybin decreased coupling between the medial temporal lobes and the DMN. He came up with the hypothesis that decreased MTL-DMN coupling is necessary for transition into primary consciousness.
According to Harris’s findings, a complete model of psilocybin’s effects can be set forth, with six clear effects: (1) the psychedelics stimulate the 5-HT2A receptor, (2) the deep layer of pyramidal neurons depolarize, (3) cortical activity will then become desynchronized, (4) brain networks “disintegrate”, (5) network metastability increases, (6) connectivity motifs within a limbic/paralimbic network increase.
The net effect of all these processes is an increase in overall entropy. This moves the brain toward a point of “criticality”, and relieves structures of narrow/restrained thinking. The previously stated point is the primary reason that psychedelics are showing tremendous positive therapeutic effects. These effects express in patients who experience conditions such as alcoholism, depression, OCD, and anxiety.
Something is considered toxic when it can cause harm to cells and/or bodily tissues. Not only has there been no tissue damage observed in animals after psilocybin is administered, there was no record of neurophysiological adverse effects after administration of psilocybin to healthy volunteers. On the contrary, there have been multiple studies which report positive neurological effects after administration of psilocybin.
Psilocybin is one of the “safest” drugs within the psychedelic community. Users of MDMA, LSD, cocaine, marijuana, opiates, sedatives, antidepressants, methamphetamine, and NSAIDs, have all shown higher emergency hospital admission than psilocybin users. The estimation is that a 130 lb person would have to consume a whopping 3.7 lbs of psilocybin to be a lethal dose. This statistic is based on experiments done with rats and psilocybin mushrooms.
Is decreasing DMN activity with psilocybin bad?
A study carried out by Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris found that after psilocybin administration, there was an observation of decreasing in functional coupling. This happened specifically in the cortical nodes of the default mode network, which is in line with the hypothesis that decreased medial temporal lobe-default mode network coupling is necessary for a transition into primary consciousness. These findings help us explain the association of psychedelics with phenomena such as personal insight and detailed imagery. This means that from time to time, lowering the activity of DMN is not bad for you.
The net effect of all these processes is an increase in overall entropy, which moves the brain toward a point of criticality, and relieves structures of narrow/restrained thinking. The previously stated point is the primary reason that psychedelics are showing tremendous positive therapeutic effects in patients who experience conditions characterized by a narrowly structured thinking mindset, such as alcoholism, depression, OCD, and anxiety. It is understood amongst professionals that in order for these effects to be beneficial and help treat a condition within an individual, the transition to and out of primary consciousness must be mediated by professional therapeutic care.
Psilocybin, as is true with every other serotonergic psychedelic, is a vasoconstrictor to a certain degree. This means that it can be unpleasant or dangerous to mix it with other vasoconstrictors. However, some users mix smaller doses of psilocybin with MDMA or LSD. The combination of LSD, MDMA and psilocybin is what the community calls a “jedi flip”. The combination of psilocybin and MDMA is referred to as a, “hippy flip”.
When psychedelic substances are mixed in combinations with other substances they produce what is called “synergic action”. This can increase the positive effects of each substance, and lowers the challenging effects. However, when taken in combination, users reduce the dosage of all of them. They usually take half or one third of the amount then in a common dosing.
Magic mushrooms mix well with MAOI, a “monoamine oxidase inhibitor” such as harmine. Psychedelic substance users mix mushrooms with plants that contain MAOI, such as banisteriopsis caapi or peganum harmala. MAOIs usually increase and prolong the effects of tryptamines. Sometimes cacao can replace stronger MAOIs, as it is a less potent MAOI.
According to reports, mixing SSRI antidepressants with psilocybin can reduce the effects of psilocybin. More research needed to fully understand this interaction.
Can You Overdose on psilocybin?
Technically, yes. The estimated lethal dose of p. cubensis for a 130 lb human is 3.7 lb of dried mushrooms.
Is Psilocybin Dangerous?
At the forefront of concern within the psychedelic community is a person’s predisposition to any mental illnesses through family history. Psilocybin and other psychedelics may bring this mental illness on earlier. “Set and setting” (coined by Timothy Leary) is a very real phenomena that can greatly impact the feelings, safety, and insights of a psychedelic experience. An emphasis on set and setting is paramount in conversations within the psychedelic community.
NOTE: A consumer picking mushrooms (who is not an expert mycologist), has no specific way to determine a type of mushroom based on a photo or written description. Psychoactive mushrooms and many types of poisonous, and possibly fatal, mushrooms that will be mistaken for psilocybin mushrooms.
Picking and identifying psilocybin mushrooms without the knowledge or experience to do so correctly is ill-advised.
Is Psilocybin Bad for You?
Many recent (and older) have shown psilocybin helping tremendously with personal insights, overcoming addiction, end of life anxiety, depression, and creativity. There have been very few reported cases of persisting perception disorder (HPPD) from psilocybin mushrooms (in some reports, the individual was using psilocybin mushrooms with other drugs).
Nevertheless, HPPD is something to be cautious of. In 2005, an 18 year-old man reported experiencing HPPD after consuming psilocybin and cannabis. In 2013 the only case of HPPD reported after ingestion of solely psilocybin.
In recent years, many psychedelic substances—mainly psilocybin, LSD, and MDMA—have experienced a reemergence in clinical research and advocacy. Psilocybin is currently being studied for its therapeutic potential to help with depression, anxiety, addiction, and various other disorders.
Popularity of magic mushrooms in the US has remained low compared to other drugs such as cocaine and alcohol. However, among psychedelics, psilocybin has shown to be highly popular for recreational use, spiritual/mystical experiences, and curiosity.
Psilocybin is more common among younger adults, and drugs like LSD, mescaline, and peyote remain more common among older adults. Based on a study from 2013, the use of magic mushrooms has increased in the US and worldwide since the 1970s. Psilocybin use (and many other psychedelics) are more popular with males of all ages than in females. However, the popularity of psilocybin as a tool for therapy is greatly increasing as scientists are publishing more positive research on psilocybin.
Current Studies & Research
Psilocybin mushrooms are categorized as a Schedule I substance, which asserts that there is a high potential for abuse and no medical value to their use. This is the same category as heroin and cocaine. Certain researchers at Johns Hopkins suggest a downgrade to Schedule IV for psilocybin mushrooms.
In 2019, the City of Oakland, CA voted to decriminalize magic mushrooms just one month after Denver, CO decided to do so. There is a push for California to consider decriminalizing psilocybin mushrooms on a statewide level, with many psychedelic awareness and advocacy groups supporting this change. Moreover, Oregon’s state legislature is considering passing a bill to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms and offer licences to grow. Much of this promising research is happening because of the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).
MAPS and Psilocybin
MAPS is currently doing medical research with MDMA, psilocybin, LSD, marijuana, ibogaine, and ayahuasca. Another notable research institute specializing in psilocybin research is Heffter Research Institute, which is named after German researcher and pharmacologist Dr. Arthur Heffter. Among Heffter Research Institute’s board of directors is co-founder Dr. David Nichols, a widely celebrated researcher, professor, and expert on the chemistry of hallucinogens. Other researchers include Dr. Dennis McKenna, an esteemed writer, ethnopharmacologist, psychonaut, and brother to the late Terrence McKenna, and Dr. Roland Griffiths, who is doing phenomenal research at Johns Hopkins with psilocybin and its potential to help with addiction.
For a list of psilocybin research in progress, please click here.
Psilocybin and Depression
There are many psilocybin research studies currently in progress. Psilocybin research is focusing on effects in treating Major Depressive Disorder, smoking cessation, alcohol dependence, and many other conditions. The two major universities in the United States doing psilocybin work are Johns Hopkins and NYU School of Medicine. At Johns Hopkins, Dr. Roland Griffiths and his team have completed a study titled, “Study of Psilocybin in Cancer Patients,” which suggests that psilocybin can offer significant help in decreasing depression and anxiety among cancer patients.
Another study at Hopkins, the “Effects of Psilocybin in Major Depressive Disorder,” is assessing whether psilocybin will help patients with Major Depressive Disorder. The hypothesis for the previously stated study is that psilocybin will lead to both a rapid and sustained antidepressant response. Both MAPS and Heffter support national and international psilocybin research, among other institutes.
Around the World
There are also several psilocybin studies currently underway internationally. The Beckley Foundation, based in the UK, is sponsoring some of the most progressive psilocybin research around today. Founded in 1996 by Amanda Fielding—an esteemed psychonaut and scientist herself—the Beckley Foundation is currently sponsoring research on the neuroscience of psilocybin, along with MAPS and Heffter.
This research is taking place at Imperial College London with Dr. David Nutt and Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris, both of whom have published psilocybin research in the past, namely the “Entropic Brain Model.” Heffter is also sponsoring a study titled, “Psilocybin Effects on Attention, Perception, and Cognition,” taking place in Switzerland. Similarly, MAPS is sponsoring a study titled, “Experimental Studies on the Effects of Psilocybin on Binocular Depth Inversion, Binocular Rivalry,” in Germany.
How Long Does Psilocybin Stay in Your System?
Psilocybin, as many other tryptamines, stays in your system anywhere from 24 hours to a few days, the latter of which is rare.
How to Store psilocybin?
Keep all dried magic mushrooms in a dry, and cold place. Silica gel packs can be used in the container for moisture control. When truffles or fresh mushrooms are in question, store them in an airtight container or vacuum bag inside a freezer.
Do Mushrooms Lose Their Efficacy or Expire?
Over time, if kept improperly, mushrooms can degrade in potency. Read above how to keep mushrooms properly.
What Does Psilocybin Taste Like?
This highly depends on the method. If mushrooms are dry then they taste like dry white-buttons with a bitter aftertaste, and the same goes with fresh versions. If they are in a tea form, the taste is similar to a mushroom soup. Mushroom tea tastes better with a bit of salt added.
What Does Psilocybin Smell Like?
Psilocybin mushrooms smell like ordinary mushrooms, with a hint of bitterness.