Why Microdosing Mushrooms is Becoming Mainstream

Why Microdosing Mushroomis Becoming Mainstream

Let’s face it, we’d all love to be like Bradley Cooper’s character in the movie Limitless. All you’d have to do is pop a magic pill and, voila, you’re able to tap into our full mental power and learn practically anything at will.

Well, magic mushrooms don’t exactly give you superhuman intelligence, but studies on them show that psilocybin, the chemical in them that gets you high, can sharpen your mind in ways that were previously unknown.

That’s the reason hallucinogenic drugs are making their way into mainstream society. Not too long ago social media sites like Reddit became abuzz with silicon techies who swore how microdosing on LSD and other psychedelics helped them recharge their batteries while on the job. Steve Jobs, the late Apple co-founder once confessed how the use of LSD helped him design the packaging for his Apple products, and said the psychedelic drug was “one of the two or three most important things I have done in my life.”

Now, these same products have moved from Silicon Valley and are fast becoming the recreational drug of choice among ordinary people.  Rather than chasing a high, these guys just want to feel good about themselves. College professors, accountants and even ordinary moms and dads are now joining the bandwagon. Whether it’s commuting to work, or doing household chores a growing number of them confess to swallowing a tiny dose of shrooms to get them through the day.

And why not? There’s overwhelming evidence that the positive changes that microdosing has brought to their lives is more than just a figment of their imaginations. The most commonly mentioned benefits shown both from lab-based research and anecdotes from users are improved mood, sharper focus and productivity, as well as being able to connect with others better.

 

How It All Started

Microdosing first appeared in San Francisco almost a decade ago. In 2011 an American psychologist and writer by the name James Fadiman wrote The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide, introducing the word microdosing into popular culture. In the book, he recommended 10 micrograms of LSD every three days as the best dosage to get the right results. Fadiman immediately got a huge following across the US and around the world, prompting researchers to start studying psychedelic drugs.

Not that LSD hadn’t been tried before. In the ‘50s and ‘60s acid had been used to treat mood disorders like alcoholism and anxiety but was declared illegal in the US in 1968 as horror stories of users overdosing and having bad trips started surfacing. Consequently, research into its clinical use came to a standstill.

 

Decriminalization of Magic Mushrooms

To this day psychedelics like magic mushrooms remain illegal in most parts of the US, although several cities in the US like Denver and Oakland have moved to legalize them. In Canada, the magic mushrooms remain illegal except for medical purposes and scientific research, although it’s probably only a matter of time before its recreational use is decriminalized.

That’s because public opinion against soft drugs like cannabis is on the wane. In 2014 Pew Research Center did a survey showing that American attitudes towards drugs were fast-changing and that a new policy on drugs was needed. The survey showed that

  • The majority of respondents believed that U.S. drug policy needed to focus more on treatment than incarceration.
  • The number of respondents who thought marijuana should be legalized had gradually increased.
  • Most of those surveyed thought that mandatory drug sentences were not necessarily a good thing.
  • Three-quarters of the respondents thought people shouldn’t be jailed for possessing small amounts of cannabis.
  • The bulk of those surveyed believed that alcohol is more harmful than cannabis.

No surprise then that in October 2018 Canada legalized marijuana federally, becoming the first member of G7 states to do so, and was followed by the US. Given this turn of events, it’s only logical to expect that magic mushrooms and other beneficial psychedelics will be fully legalized in the not so far future.

Microdosing Benefits and Drawbacks

Findings presented by Researchers at the Beyond Psychedelics conference in Prague in June. (Source: The Benefits and Drawbacks of Microdosing Psychedelics)

Research Bodies Playing Catch-up

It wouldn’t be too far-fetched to say that research bodies are also going through a renaissance of sorts as far as psychedelics are concerned. There’s now more focus on hallucinogenic substances by renowned scientists than ever before with psilocybin leading the way as one of the most talked-about drugs in medical circles. The B.C. Centre on Substance Use, for example, has put together a team of reputable researchers with the intention of making Vancouver an important global player when it comes to researching mind-altering drugs used to treat addiction and mental disorders.

Further afield, Johns Hopkins Medicine armed with $17 million in donations, is set to launch the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research. The center intends to investigate the feasibility of using psychedelic chemicals such as LSD, psilocybin, and ketamine in the management of mental health illnesses especially Alzheimer’s, PTSD and anorexia nervosa, as well as opioid addiction and alcohol abuse. This follows the opening of Imperial College London’s psychedelic treatment center in the UK in April 2019.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University have also endorsed the reclassification of psilocybin from a class I drug in the US to pave the way for its use in treating depression.

 

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Does Microdosing Mushrooms Actually Work?

Micrdose Defination

From Silicon Valley execs to college professors, and even moms, the number of those who use magic mushrooms to improve their lives both creatively and productively is on the rise. Magic mushrooms are no longer considered the preserve of hippies and socialites attending cultural festivals like Burning Man, they’re increasingly becoming part of everyday life. Heck, even the government has started taking notice of this trend with cities like Oakland and Denver in the US now moving to decriminalize their use.

 

What is Microdosing?

Microdosing means taking miniscule amounts of magic mushrooms once every few days which are usually dried and ground into a powder. Now, instead of using 100 micrograms of the stuff which is enough to give you a full psychedelic experience or trip, techies, redditors and ordinary folks like your next door neighbor now swallow 10 to 20 grams every so often to alleviate their mental health. Some guys even go to the length of using digital jewelry scales so they can weigh their stash more accurately.

It’s plain and simple, people who don’t want to get high, but are just looking for a way to feel better about themselves will tell you microdosing mushrooms are the way to go. Not only do shrooms boost their productivity at work, they’re able to handle their kids and relationships better.

 

How do Magic Mushrooms Work?

Psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, works by binding to serotonin, a chemical that’s produced by nerve cells which sends signals between these cells.

This is how it happens:

  • Once the psilocybin reaches your gut it’s converted into another chemical called psilocin.
  • Psilocin binds to serotonin receptors called 5-HT2A triggering your brain to go through major changes- essentially a domino effect.
  • Consequently, the level of activity in your visual cortex increases, changing the way you perceive things.
  • The visual cortex is the part of your brain that’s responsible for abstract thinking, thought analysis, and plays a key role in mood and perception.

In a word, the psilocybin in the mushrooms profoundly changes how the different areas of your brain synchronize with each other- like a conductor guiding an orchestra.

Dr David Erritzoe a researcher at the Imperial College London speaking to The Guardian said, “If we do brain imaging when a full dose of psychedelics is in the brain, a lot of the functional networks that we can measure start to fuse into each other. There’s broader communication between the networks. That could be the biology behind this ‘more-free’ state of mind or perception that people typically report.”

Human Brain on Psilocybin Magic Mushroom

Above: Graphic representation of the brain connections in a person dosed with psilocybin (right) and in someone who’s taken a placebo (left).

 

What Research Says about Magic Mushrooms

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, magic mushrooms can make you experience the following things:

  • Feelings of relaxation similar to what low doses of marijuana make you feel.
  • Introspective or spiritual experiences.
  • Nervousness, paranoia, and panic reactions

 

Mushrooms can treat cancer-related anxiety or depression

A study conducted by Johns Hopkins researchers on a group of people suffering from cancer-related anxiety or depression showed that they experienced significant relief for up to six months from a single large dose of psilocybin.

The study found that:

  • Almost 80% of participants continued to experience clinically significant reduction in depressed mood and anxiety.
  • 83% experienced a higher sense of well-being or life satisfaction.
  • 67% of participants ranked their experience with psilocybin as one of the top five meaningful experiences in their lives, while about 70% said it was one of their top five spiritually significant lifetime events.

The effects of magic mushrooms last four to six hours

According to Roland Griffiths a professor of behavioral biology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, a single dose of psilocybin can last for four to six hours but, as the study showed, can produce lasting reductions in depression and anxiety symptoms.

Charles Grob, a psychiatry professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, believes that by contrast, a microdose of magic mushrooms, has far more subtle effects, saying “It kind of enhances sensory perception.” He goes on to explain that microdoses of psilocybin makes colors to appear brighter, gives the user a greater appreciation of nature whereby they’re able to “delve into psychological and interpersonal issues.” He also believes that a microdose allows you to function in your day to day life.

Microdosing mushrooms increase alertness

Cognitive scientist Vince Polito, led a study that was published in the open- access journal Plos One which followed 98 microdosers who were already using psychedelics to find out what their experience was like. The study noted some clear changes. For example, the participants  reported decreased mind-wandering, lower levels of stress and depression. The study concludes that “microdosing may lead to more subtle changes characterized by improvements in mental stability, the capacity to sustain attention and increased ability to become engaged in intense imaginative experiences.”

Does Microdosing Work for Everyone?

As the studies above show, yes. However, research is ongoing to prove beyond doubt that the feel-good symptom is more than just a placebo effect of taking the drug. However, there are some folks who say that microdosing works for them best in specific situations. For example it may help with creative tasks like handling people, but may be a distraction when it comes to the more mundane tasks like bookkeeping. Some report that microdosing works better for them when they combine it with other activities like psychotherapy, dieting and regular exercise.

Are There Risks Involved In Microdosing?

David Nutt, a Professor of Neuropsychopharmacology at the Imprerial College London believes that psychedelic drugs like LSD when taken every day could narrow the heart valves, but states that there’s no evidence that psychedelics are dangerous to your health. It’s only the actions of those under its influence that can be harmful.

Psychedelics are not recommended for people who have bipolar disorder or psychotic illness as they can trigger a psychotic episode. You should also shouldn’t mix psychedelics with other drugs or alcohol, for that matter. It goes without saying that driving while under the influence of psychedelics is a big no-no.

Conclusion

Magic mushrooms are showing a lot of promise especially in the area of treating depression and kicking habits like smoking, if the studies done so far are anything to go by. There’s also undeniable anecdotal evidence that microdosing on them improves one’s overall wellness, in the same way as yoga or meditation.

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How Much Magic Mushrooms Should I Take To Get The Desired Effect?

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If you’re having challenges coming up with a mushroom dosage to give you the right psychedelic experience, don’t worry. It’s something lots of psychonauts go through while experimenting with hallucinogens. It’s perfectly understandable, you want to get the best out of your trip without overdoing it.

Unfortunately there’s no one size fits all dosing recommendation because there are many factors that contribute to the high you get from your shrooms including the potency of the magic mushrooms, your weight, as well as your state of mind. So calibrating the dosage that’s most suitable for you is a painstaking process that could involve starting off with low doses and working your way up until you hit the right note- metaphorically speaking.

This means that if we take a normal microdose to be 0.2 to 0.5 grams of mushrooms, it’s probably best to start off with 0.1 grams if your body weight is below 100 lbs. This can be increased to between 0.3 grams to 0.5 grams for a bodyweight of 200 lbs and over.

 

Fresh Versus Dry Mushrooms

Mushrooms usually have a dry weight that’s about 10% of their fresh or wet weight. That means when you take 5 grams of fresh mushrooms what you’re really getting is 0.5 grams of psychoactive compounds from them. That said, the amount of psilocybin will vary depending on the part of the mushroom you consume and even the variety of mushroom. Let’s not forget there are over 180 species of magic mushrooms known to contain psilocybin.

Research on one of the more popular strains, Psilocybe Cubensis, shows that you’re likely to get 0.37–1.30 % of psilocybin when you take the whole mushroom, where a higher concentration of 0.44–1.35% is found in the cap, while 0.05–1.27% is present in the stem.

Now if you’re the kind of person who likes to prepare the mushrooms yourself you should know that microdosing works best when you maintain the same variety of mushrooms in your regimen and grind them into powder form. This enables you to get a more consistent high from each hit.

 

How Much Magic Mushrooms Should You Take?

It depends on your level of experience with psychedelics and how much you want to push the envelope. Let’s look at the 5 dose sizes that are commonly used.

1. Microdosing- 0.2 to 0.5 grams dried

As we’ve seen, it’s best to go the microdosing route if it’s your first time taking magic mushrooms. You could begin by consuming 0.1g of powdered mushrooms as your starter microdose. You can measure out the amount yourself or take the dose in the form of a capsule or pill that contains the exact dose of mushroom powder. After your first attempt, you can gradually adjust this amount until you hit your sweet spot.

On such a low dosage your emotions should be generally under control. You probably shouldn’t expect any visuals or any obvious changes in mood. This dose is ideal if you’re looking for a subtle boost in your energy and creativity levels.

A word of caution

Apart from how much you should take, how often is an equally important question to address. James Fadiman, who introduced the concept of microdosing into popular culture, recommends microdosing once every three days. It’s also a good idea to take notes on any changes you note in your mood and behavior.

2. Minidose: 0.5 – 1.0 grams dried

This is a mid-low dosage that gives you more than just a subtle boost in your mood and you should start getting some visuals. Some describe the feeling it gives you as “gently floating in the clouds.” It’s ideal for a party setting or hanging out with your buddies on a Friday evening. A mini dose can also be useful for some reflection and helping in your creative processes.

3. Museum dose: 1.0 – 2.0 gram dried

Once you’re on a museum dose your brain waves shift towards alpha oscillations as you transit into a flow state. Expect the visuals to get more intense, you’ll feel a lot like laughing as you experience some good vibes. Conversations may get deeper too, and you start to feel like you’re going through some really life-altering experiences.

4. Moderate dose: 2.0 – 3.0 gram dried

Buckle up because this is the classic psychedelic trip that’s achieved such notoriety. It’ll feel like being pushed into the deep end of a pool when you’re a first-time swimmer. However you’ll still retain some level of control, riding the wave and catching a breather as you go. At this point, the visuals get really intense, and you might perceive things you’ve never imagined. A moderate dose is certainly better suited for the more experienced users and should be taken in the company of people you’re more comfortable with.

5. Megadose: 3.0-5.0g

If you’re already familiar with the classic trip and are looking for new spiritual highs, you’ll probably want to try the mega dose. It’s definitely not for the weak-minded. Experts say that this is the level at which you experience ego death and a spiritual rebirth. This high is very intense, so it’s always good to speak to someone with experience before trying it out. Mind you, taking a mega dose should never be used to escape from your fears or inhibitions. If anything, it should enhance your life.

 

Other factors that affect your trip

Keep in mind that when all is said and done, the dose size is only one aspect of your psychedelic experience. It can’t be overemphasized how important it is to be in the right space mentally and in a supportive and safe environment as you go through your trip.

 

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How Magic Mushrooms Can Help Treat Depression

How Magic Mushrooms Can Help Treat Depression

Magic mushrooms have been around for thousands of years, playing an important role in religious customs among Central American indigenous communities such as the Aztecs of Mexico. And now research on the psychological benefits that this medicinal fungus has to offer is intensifying, driven by the need to find a lasting solution to the mental health and addiction problems that bedevil our society.

 

Use of Magic Mushrooms to Treat Depression

One of the more interesting findings by researchers has been the magic mushrooms’ potential to treat depression. Several studies have been done as follows:

  • In 2015, psilocybin was used to treat alcoholism and the results of were published in a proof-of-concept study circulated in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
  • In 2016, a publication in the Lancet Psychiatry revealed how patients suffering from moderate to mild depression showed “markedly reduced depressive symptoms” after being treated with psilocybin.
  • In another study at the Imperial College London, 20 patients with treatment-resistant depression were given psilocybin. The patients had their brains scanned before and after a high dose treatment using MRI imaging. The images revealed reduced blood flow in the amygdala, the part of the brain that handles emotional responses, stress, and fear. The amygdala is usually overactive in patients who suffer from depression and anxiety.
  • A team of researchers at Johns Hopkins were also able to prove that psilocybin could treat depressed mood and anxiety among 51 terminally ill patients. The patients experienced significant relief for up to six months from a single large dose of psilocybin, and after being interviewed said they felt the experience had increased the quality of life, and made them more optimistic.

What the Studies Teach Us

One thing that came out in the Imperial College London study is that patients who’ve received a dose of psilocybin undergo a resetting of the brain. This means that the connections between different parts of their brain loosen up and then reintegrate after going through the psychedelic trip. This could be used to explain why the patients are able to overcome compulsive behavior and rethink deep-rooted beliefs associated with depression.

 

Psilocybin works differently than antidepressants

This is starkly different to antidepressants which act by dulling our emotions to help us cope with depression. Psilocybin by contrast enhances our sensory perception by complementing our serotonin system – the system that sends signals between nerve cells. It broadens the communication pathways in our brains and enhances our emotional responses encouraging patients to face their depression head-on.

At any rate, the more conventional methods of treating depression, such as antidepressants and behavioral therapy can take weeks or even months before any positive results are seen and aren’t always effective. Besides, certain drugs used to treat depression, such as benzodiazepines, can actually be addictive.

 

Mushrooms increase your productivity

Magic mushrooms don’t just fight depression. Both lab-based research and anecdotes from users show that psilocybin mushrooms sharpen your focus, boost your productivity and enable you to connect better with others.

Research conducted by cognitive scientist Vince Polito, sought to find out what the experiences of 98 microdosers was like. The study noted changes in the participants’ behavior including decreased mind-wandering, lower levels of stress and depression. The study concludes that “microdosing may lead to more subtle changes characterised by improvements in mental stability, the capacity to sustain attention and increased ability to become engaged in intense imaginative experiences.”

 

Magic mushrooms free you spiritually

In another study by Johns Hopkins psychologists 36 healthy volunteers were given psilocybin to see how it would affect them spiritually. The study included a control group among the participants who received a placebo. After a couple of months these were the outcomes:

  • Almost 80% of the participants reported “moderately or greatly increased well-being or life satisfaction” compared with those who received a placebo during the same therapy session.
  • Most of them said their “mood, attitudes and behaviors had changed for the better,” a feeling that was acknowledged by family members, friends and co-workers.
  • One third of the subjects in the study said the experience was the “single most spiritually significant of their lifetimes”, while more than two-thirds ranked it among the top five most meaningful and spiritually significant experiences.

Conclusion

Suffice it to say the evidence that magic mushrooms have a holistic benefit on your mental wellness are overwhelming. Unfortunately the illegal status of magic mushrooms means many people will not be able to access these obvious benefits in the short term.

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