The Sanctuary Wellness Institute does not offer Psilocybin Therapy. This web page is meant for informational use only.
The profiles of psilocybin and other psychedelic drugs (such as LSD, MDMA, ketamine, and DMT) are rising as nationwide advocacy and groundbreaking research lead states to reconsider the therapeutic applicability and legality of “magic mushrooms.”
Clinical trials and advanced neurological studies are unlocking psilocybin’s ability to rewire the mind. Doctors believe this effect is the pathway to treatments for chronic and persistent diseases that currently resist conventional treatment.
While the results of initial studies are promising and humans have safely consumed psilocybin for centuries, scientific knowledge about the long-term effects of psilocybin is still forming. The criminalization of psychedelics in the 1970s halted high-quality research until doctors began championing their therapeutic potential in the early 2000s.
This article discusses how individuals use psilocybin mushrooms, their long-term effects, their possible side effects, and safe consumption methods. As legality and access expand, learning about this breakthrough therapy can help you understand psilocybin better and prepare you for potential discussions about it with a healthcare professional.
What is Psilocybin?
Psilocybin is the chemical in Psilocybe mushrooms that causes their mind-altering effects. When consumed, the human body turns psilocybin into psilocin, a naturally occurring compound. The rush of outside psilocin enters the bloodstream and travels to the brain. It breaks open the mind’s partitions by opening new neural pathways.
While the federal government classifies psilocybin as a Schedule I narcotic, over the belief it offers no clinical value and carries a high risk of abuse, researchers are challenging that view.
Uses of Psilocybin
Humans have consumed psilocybe mushrooms for thousands of years for spiritual and religious practices. The most common use in the United States through the 20th century was for recreational, mind-opening psychedelic “trips.”
These experiences include an altered state of perception that distorts time and space. Depending on the dose and type of mushroom, “trips” can feature visual and auditory hallucinations, intense euphoria, and transcendental emotions that unlock new thoughts and ideas.
Therapeutically, neuroscience and psychiatry researchers are investigating the ability of psilocybin to rewire faulty neural connections by bypassing divisions the brain naturally creates by activating new pathways. Scientists believe that the same expansive properties that induce “trips” can be used with supplemental therapy to alter thoughts and behaviors.
Today, clinical trials are assessing psilocybin and other hallucinogenic drugs as treatments for depression, compulsive behaviors, alcohol use disorder, epilepsy, schizophrenia, and other neurological conditions. Scientists are motivated to explore psilocybin because many of these mental health conditions lack effective treatments, or those treatments (such as antidepressants) produce adverse effects and can potentially lead to drug abuse.
The therapeutic use of “shrooms” can decrease the odds of negative physical effects and substance use disorder as well as facilitating mystical experiences for patients.
Advanced imaging also shows that psychoactive drugs like psilocybin promote neural plasticity, making the brain more resilient and open. While this is often associated with transcendental thinking and creativity, doctors hope to leverage this heightened state to establish new behavioral patterns and improve patients’ well-being.
Side Effects of Psilocybin
Any substance you consume can cause potential side effects. The dose, your history with psychedelics, and your unique biochemistry dictate how you react to psilocybin and the intensity of any adverse reaction.
The most common side effects are increased heart rate and pupil dilation. Some individuals experience nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. This reaction is more common with larger doses.
Psilocybin can also cause headaches, rapid breathing, elevated body temperature, chills, sweating, facial flushing, and tremors. These effects are non-life threatening and dissipate after your body metabolizes the mushroom, usually in about six hours.
The most well-known adverse reaction is a “bad trip.” This situation results from anxiety and stress induced by altered perception. “Bad trips” usually occur among recreational users when they consume psilocybin in an unfamiliar or unsafe environment. The stress can further elevate heart rate and blood pressure as hallucinations create a sense of panic.
The trip itself is not life-threatening, but individuals may take risky or harmful actions in response to their hallucinations. These responses can result in harm to self and others.
The only mushrooms safe for consumption are ones obtained from reputable sources. Many species are toxic to humans, capable of causing severe illness or death.
Long-Term Effects of Psilocybin
The FDA recently granted researchers the ability to conduct clinical trials using psilocybin, so our knowledge about long-term effects is still growing. However, initial studies and anecdotal evidence give us insight into the impact of psychedelics.
Trials on the therapeutic use of psilocybin have shown that it can create long-lasting personality changes that enhance openness, creativity, and abstract thinking. Researchers believe these effects are responsible for psilocybin’s ability to change behaviors regarding alcohol use disorder and other compulsions.
Researchers have also seen new neural pathways resulting from psilocybin from advanced imaging studies. While longitudinal studies are needed to assess the longevity of these changes, some researchers speculate that the “rewiring” may be permanent.
One of the most significant risks of long-term psilocybin use is the inability to differentiate between hallucinations and reality. Further study is needed to determine the dose and frequency that results in this condition, but it involves “flashbacks” to prior hallucinations.
How to Use Psilocybin Safely
Using psilocybin in a safe and comfortable environment will minimize the risk of a “bad trip.” Experts also advise using psilocybin under the supervision of an individual who is not “tripping.” They can best help guide you to reality if you experience an adverse reaction.
The safest way to use psilocybin is in a clinical setting under the supervision of trained personnel. Currently, these opportunities are limited because psilocybin remains prohibited in most of the country.
How does psilocybin affect the brain?
The body converts psilocybin into psilocin during digestion. It enters the brain through the bloodstream. The compound then bonds to receptors on neurons, mimicking the effects of serotonin, a naturally produced neural transmitter.
This activity spurs new connections by breaking down “walls” between parts of the mind. It also slows blood flow to the hypothalamus and induces euphoric feelings.
What are the long-term effects of hallucinogens?
Researchers are still determining the long-term effects of psilocybin in clinical usage. Current studies indicate it can achieve sustained personality changes by creating a state of openness and creativity.
The most significant concern is Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder, a condition in which hallucinations continue after psilocybin is out of a person’s system. While further study is needed to assess the prevalence and severity, the condition can last for weeks or months.
Does psilocybin affect serotonin levels?
By bonding to the same receptors and mimicking serotonin, scientists theorize psilocybin causes many of the same effects. They also speculate that the new pathways created by psilocybin open new connections for the body’s naturally produced serotonin to bond to.
Does psilocybin improve cognitive functioning?
Studies of psilocybin therapy used to treat depression have shown improved cognitive function. Investigators believe this results from enhanced neural plasticity created by psilocybin.
Researchers are exploring whether improvement is a direct effect or a byproduct of the anti-depressant effect of psilocybin. The initial results have led to ongoing research into treating memory and cognitive disorders with hallucinogens.
How does psilocybin affect dopamine?
Dopamine is the neurotransmitter responsible for the reward center in the brain. It impacts mood, memory, attention, and movement. Psilocybin does not engage dopamine receptors, but researchers speculate it elevates available levels.
John DiBella is a medical marijuana advocate, owner of The Sanctuary Wellness Institute, and a writer. When he’s not writing blogs about medical marijuana, he enjoys hiking, camping and sailing.