What Do Shrooms Do?

What do shrooms do? Explore the effects of psilocybin-containing magic mushrooms.

Overview: Psilocybin-containing mushrooms, also known as magic mushrooms or shrooms, have a rich history of religious, spiritual, and medicinal use. In the 1950s, scientific interest surged but later waned due to association with counterculture movements, leading to their prohibition. However, recent researchers have reignited interest, particularly in the potential clinical applications of psilocybin. Psilocybin works by converting into psilocin in the body and binding to serotonin receptors in the brain, influencing perception, cognition, emotions, and sense of self. Clinical trials have shown promising results in treating mental health conditions, but further research is needed. It's important to approach the use of shrooms and psilocybin cautiously, as it may not be suitable for everyone, and realistic expectations should be maintained. Continued exploration will contribute to a better understanding of the effects, potential benefits, and risks of psilocybin and shrooms.

Ancient Origins and Cultural Significance: Exploring the Historical Use of Psilocybin-Containing Mushrooms

Psilocybin-containing mushrooms, commonly known as “magic mushrooms” or “shrooms,” have been historically used for religious, spiritual, and medicinal purposes for thousands of years. In particular, shrooms have been consumed by the Mesoamerican Aztec tribes in the post-classical period, and later among the Mazatecs and Zapotecs of Northern Oaxaca in southern Mexico. 

In 1955, R. Gordon Wasson, a banker and amateur mycologist, visited Oaxaca, where he had the opportunity to participate in a traditional Mazatec magico-religious mushroom ceremony. Prior to his visit, he obtained approval from María Sabina, a well-known curandera (a traditional healer) referred to as the “priestess of mushrooms.”

Wasson documented his remarkable experience in a significant 1957 essay titled “Seeking the Magic Mushroom,” which was published in Time magazine. Subsequently, Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann, already renowned for his work on LSD, isolated psilocybin as the active compound responsible for the psychoactive effects of the Mazatec's sacred mushroom. 

During the following decade, scientific interest in psilocybin and shrooms experienced a notable increase. However, their association with the counterculture movement eventually led to their prohibition in 1970.

After decades of scientific censorship, a new wave of researchers has rekindled interest in psychedelics, resulting in a surge of scientific investigations. Psychedelic science has resurfaced with renewed vigor, particularly highlighting the potential clinical applications of psilocybin.

But what exactly do shrooms do, and how do they make you feel? 

The Intricate Workings of Psilocybin in the Brain: Unveiling the Mechanisms Behind Shroom's Effects

Understanding how psilocybin works in the brain, like other psychedelic compounds, can be quite complex and challenging to fully grasp.

However, scientists have found that when shrooms are consumed, the psilocybin in them undergoes a conversion process in the body and transforms into a metabolite called psilocin. It is this psilocin that is responsible for the effects of shrooms.

Unlike psilocybin, which is believed to have relatively minor effects on the body, psilocin is different. It has the ability to pass through the protective barrier around the brain, known as the blood-brain barrier, thanks to its ability to dissolve in fats (lipid solubility).

Once in the brain, psilocin binds to a specific receptor called the 5-HT2A serotonin receptor, which sets off a psychedelic experience.

Some studies suggest that psilocybin reduces connectivity within certain brain networks while increasing connectivity between other networks that have previously not had an opportunity to “talk”. This means that psilocybin could potentially disrupt the normal patterns of brain activity and create new connections between different regions, which likely contributes to the altered states of consciousness produced.

Psilocybin may also promote neuroplasticity, which refers to the brain's ability to change and reorganize its structure and function. Neuroplasticity involves the formation of new connections between neurons and the strengthening of existing ones, potentially leading to long-lasting changes in the brain.

In other words, psilocybin-induced neuroplasticity can be likened to reshaping and rewiring the brain. It is like carving new pathways and bridges between neurons, allowing for improved communication and information processing.

The effects of psilocybin holds the potential to enhance brain flexibility and adaptability, which may have implications for mental health and overall well-being.

Exploring the Effects of Shrooms

When consumed, shrooms generally bring about changes in perception, cognition, emotions, and one's sense of self. 

In terms of perception, shrooms may alter the way we perceive colors, shapes, and patterns, often enhancing their intensity and creating visual distortions. Shrooms can also produce vivid mental imagery and geometric visuals, and may lead to an experience of transcending the boundaries of time and space.

Cognition can also be influenced, leading to changes in thinking patterns, creativity, and memory, and may find things in the environment more meaningful.

Shrooms have the power to magnify and heighten our emotions, making them stronger and more intense. Shrooms can evoke a wide range of feelings, from euphoria and joy, to anxiety and fear. 

Furthermore, shrooms can affect one's sense of self or ego, sometimes leading to a temporary dissolution of boundaries between the self and the universe, which may be accompanied by feelings of awe, love, and wonder and a profound feeling of interconnectedness. Users may also experience insight into thoughts, behavior, or personal problems. 

Physical effects of shrooms may include:

  • Increased heart rate 
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Excessive yawning 
  • Pupil dilation 
  • Sedation 
  • Tactile enhancement 
  • Bodily euphoria 
  • Pain relief 
  • Changes in felt bodily form


The Therapeutic Potential of Shroom Experiences

In a therapeutic environment, the experience of using magic mushrooms under supportive and controlled conditions offers individuals an opportunity to confront and work through challenging emotions and memories. This process can potentially result in emotional breakthroughs, meaningful insights, and personal growth.

Moreover, for certain individuals, these experiences can be transformative, fostering greater empathy, compassion, and a deeper sense of connection to both others and the world at large. This newfound perspective can potentially lead to enhanced well-being and a better understanding of oneself and the human experience.

Clinical trials have provided evidence that psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy delivered in a medical context can be a safe and effective treatment for certain mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and addiction. Some but not all of these studies have found an association between positive mental health outcomes and psilocybin-induced mystical-type experiences

While clinical trials have shown promising results, further research is still needed to fully understand the efficacy, safety, and long-term effects of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy as a treatment for depression. Additional studies will help validate these findings, identify potential risks or contraindications, and expand our knowledge of how this therapy can be integrated into existing mental health treatment approaches.

It's also  important to note that these experiences can be highly subjective and may vary widely from person to person. While many individuals may find them deeply meaningful and positive, others may have a different experience or find the effects of psilocybin to be uncomfortable or distressing. These effects can vary from person to person and depend on several factors, such as individual sensitivity, set and setting, and dosage.

Here are the common dosage ranges for dried shrooms:

  • Microdose: < 0.25 gram 
  • Low dose: 0.25 -1 gram
  • Average dose: 1 – 2.5 grams
  • High dose: 2.5 – 5 grams
  • Very high dose: > 5 grams

It's important to approach the use of psilocybin with caution and under the supervision of a trained professional or trusted friend to ensure a safe and positive experience.

Realistic Expectations: Understanding the Limitations of Psychedelic Medicines and Shrooms

While psychedelic medicines offer considerable promise, it is crucial to maintain a realistic perspective. Shrooms or the psilocybin they contain should not be considered a universal cure for all ailments or a one-way ticket to spiritual enlightenment. 

Additionally, shroom experiences and psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy may not be suitable for everyone. It is imperative to approach the use of shrooms with caution, carefully considering set and setting, individual circumstances, and medical guidance.

Nonetheless, it is encouraging that most clinical studies conducted thus far have yielded promising results. Continued research and exploration in the field of psychedelic science hold the potential for further advancements, contributing to our understanding of the pharmacological, subjective, and therapeutic effects of psilocybin and psilocybin mushrooms.

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