You may not know it, but if you’ve ever consumed “magic mushrooms” and had a psychedelic experience, chances are you have psilocybin to thank for the journey.
That’s because psilocybin is the main and most well studied psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms, a chemical compound known for its “vision-giving powers” as journalist turned banker Gordon Wasson first described in a 1957 Life magazine article titled “Seeking the Magic Mushroom” marking the introduction of magic mushrooms —and thus psilocybin — to modern western society.
My Chemical Romance
Psilocybin is a naturally occurring tryptamine alkaloid that’s been found in more than 180 different species of fungi, the most common and classic psilocybin-containing mushroom being Psilocybe Cubensis. If you’ve ever consumed magic mushrooms it was probably P. Cubensis- since it’s the easiest psilocybin-containing mushroom to cultivate and therefore dominates the black market.
It’s worth noting, though, that scientifically speaking psilocybin isn’t actually what gives you those trippy visions. Instead, it’s psilocin, which is what your body converts psilocybin into once you eat a few magic mushrooms and they meet your gastrointestinal tract and kidneys. Psilocin, the true pharmacologically active compound in magic mushrooms — alongside a host of other alkaloids that likely work in tandem with psilocin to create the classic psychedelic experience — has structural similarities to serotonin.
Each Peak is Unique
For the uninitiated, perhaps the phrase “classic psychedelic experience” brings to mind a Hollywood-esque scene of amorphous swirling rainbow-colored hallucinations and discordant pulsating sounds. In today’s world, almost everyone has some idea of what psychedelics do. Yet it’s rather accurate to declare that until you’ve experienced one yourself— and each one is different — you can’t truly know. Still, science has a pretty good idea and explanation of what and how psilocybin and psilocin work on the brain and body.
When psilocybin is ingested, your gastrointestinal tract converts it into psilocin, an agonist at a variety of serotonin receptors but especially at the 5-HT2A receptor. This receptor plays critical roles in modulating behavior, cognitive function, and motor function meaning that much of psilocin’s effects lead to alterations in mood, perception, and cognition.
Increased introspection, dream-like states, illusions, synesthesia, and altered perceptions of time and space are common, as is euphoria. Panic and dysphoria can also occur but two factors — mindset and the physical setting of the experience, colloquially called “set and setting”— have been found to strongly influence the experience, meaning that with proper intention and preparation, these less desirable effects can often, but not always, be avoided.
Typically, effects are felt within 30 to 60 minutes of ingestion with the peak experience coming within 2 hours of ingestion and the total experience lasting no more than six hours. As is the case with any substance, effects and length of experience are dosage dependent.
User Discretion Advised
In part due to a dramatic rise in psychedelic usage during the 1960s counterculture movement, psychedelics including psilocybin and psilocin were ultimately banned in the United States in 1968 and then classified as a Schedule I drug in the federal Controlled Substances Act in 1970. Under the act, Schedule I drugs are substances with no currently accepted medical use, a lack of accepted safety, and a high potential for abuse. Yet all three of these stipulations, recent research suggests, do not apply to psilocybin. (It’s worth noting though that the spores of psilocybin-containing mushrooms are legal in most states)
Light at the End of the Tunnel
Public opinion, science, and local laws are rapidly changing. In the wake of a rash of scientific research and study at prestigious schools like John Hopkins University and the Imperial College of London demonstrating psilocybin’s efficacy in treating depression in patients whom typical treatments have failed — as well as other studies showing psilocybin’s power to treat addiction and anxiety — the U.S. Food and Drug Administration designated psilocybin-based medicines as a breakthrough therapy and placed it on a fast track toward approval.
Further, in the past two years, Denver (CO), Oakland (CA), Santa Cruz (CA), Ann Arbor (MI) Washington D.C., Somerville (MA), Cambridge (MA) and Northampton (MA) have all effectively decriminalized the possession of entheogenic plants and fungi like psilocybin mushrooms, peyote, and ayahuasca for personal use.
And last November, Oregon became the first state in the country to legalize medical psilocybin in therapeutic settings while also decriminalizing small possessions of a host of other substances — e.g. cocaine, heroin, ayahuasca, MDMA — as well.
Suffice to say, the times are a-changing quickly. But no matter what appears at the end of this rabbit hole, we at Troop will be ready to educate, produce, and distribute whatever mushrooms we feel have the fundamental medicinal values we believe in within the parameters of the law.
- Meyler's Side Effects of Drugs (Sixteenth Edition), The International Encyclopedia of Adverse Drug Reactions and Interactions; 2016, Pages 1048-1051